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MPs back business rates freeze

A business rates freeze - a move widely seen as offering a fillip to the ailing high street - has been backed by two-thirds of MPs.

A survey of 106 MPs, conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), suggest there is growing consensus within parliament that business rates should be frozen next year.

While two-thirds agreed rates should be frozen, more than one in five “strongly” agreed with the proposal. 

Two-thirds of respondents said high streets in their constituency had “deteriorated noticeably” over the last five years according to the poll, which was carried out by Populus for the BRC between October 23 and November 12.

Two-thirds (66%) said we should move to a ‘fairer and more predictable’ system of setting rate increases as a matter of urgency, up from 58% in July.Nearly three-quarters (73%) agree that the cost of operating on the high street must be brought under control to encourage investment – 26% of them agreeing strongly. 

Business rates are a major cost to retailers and more than £500m has been added to UK retailers’ bills since April last year.

The BRC and Drapers’ sister magazine Retail Week are calling on the chancellor to announce in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement that there will be no business rates rise next April.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “A business rates freeze is essential to offer immediate relief, but there is much more still to be done if high streets are to go on providing jobs and services. 

“If action isn’t taken the cost of that failure will be borne by communities across the country in the form of more boarded up premises and an acceleration of the downward spiral that’s gripping too many town centres.”   

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