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No relief for retailers in Spring Statement

Retailers have been offered no reprieve to help struggling high streets in the chancellor’s Spring Statement.

Philip Hammond presented his spending plans for the coming six months to the House of Commons this afternoon.

Retail and property bodies have hit out at the lack of support for the retail industry, which faces a £186m increase in business rates in April.

“It is disappointing that the Spring Statement does nothing to support struggling high streets at a time when they are weighed down by the twin burdens of skyrocketing business rates and Brexit uncertainty,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

“The chancellor has heeded our warnings that a no-deal Brexit would result in higher prices for consumers. However, it is not enough to be confident in a future deal, and it will take actions, not just words, to make it so. Parliament must find a way forward that can command the support of both the House of Commons and the EU27.”

The standard tax rate for business rates, which applies to all medium and large premises in England with a rateable value of more than £51,000, will rise by 2.4% to 50.4p in England, from 1 April. When the national business rates system was introduced in 1990, the multiplier was set at 34.8p.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at real estate adviser Altus Group, said: “The Spring Statement has been totally overwhelmed by Brexit. The chancellor missed a golden opportunity to help those major retail and hospitality businesses who are reducing their estates and headcount, as well as manufacturers and the service industries hurting from the current uncertainties, all of whom now face the highest standard tax rate since 1990 at more than 50% on 1 April.”

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London’s West End and Mayfair, said: “Today the chancellor missed a huge opportunity to support retailers and the nation’s high streets. With the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the challenging economic climate, the government should be doing everything in its power to support businesses. Yet at the end of the month business rates are set to surge by £45m this year in London’s West End, hitting businesses at a critical time of change. As a major tourist destination, London’s West End plays an important role in supporting the UK economy, and penalising its businesses could have a severe knock-on effect across the whole country as retailers and restaurants look to cut costs elsewhere. We urge the government to look seriously at wider reform of business taxation to ensure that it is fair and does not disproportionately hit the high street.”

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