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Retail chiefs warn rates rise will hit jobs and stores

Nearly three quarters of retail chief executives believe another business rates increase in April will hit jobs and store numbers, according to a snapshot survey by the British Retail Consortium.

The news comes as the BRC steps up its campaign to freeze business rates by joining TaxPayers’ Alliance to urge people to lobby their local MPs on the issue.

Businesses are facing a 2.5% rise in rates – which will cost them £175m – next year on top of a 5.6% rise in 2012 and a 4.6% increase in 2011.

The chief executives of BRC members, who together employ 894,000 people across 12,000 stores and represent 32% of the UK’s retail market, said a further rise would force them to cut job creation and 15% said it would even lead them to close shops.

Stephen Robertson, director general of BRC, said: “MPs who care about their constituencies will recognise the importance of their high streets and the need to take action to prevent more shops falling empty. They will want to avoid the blow to investment and job creation that chief executives tell us would come from a third successive huge hike in business rates.

“I urge MPs of all parties to encourage the Chancellor to recognise that retail has already paid more than its fair share in recent years and to freeze business rates in 2013. 

“The Government should also honour its commitment to review the mechanism for setting rates increases and introduce a fairer, more sustainable formula for the future.”

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Businesses of all kinds struggle with rates as they are a major bill that they have to pay in good times and bad, whether or not they are making the money to pay it. Freezing business rates would be a great way of letting firms grow, prosper and create new jobs.”

Anyone concerned about the potential damage that would be caused to businesses and jobs can use: to identify and write to their local MP.

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