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Indies cheer multiples’ business rates campaign

The independent sector has applauded retail heavyweights for getting involved in the business rates debate, with many optimistic that change is likely to come.

Last week Sir Philip Green called for an overhaul of the UK’s business rates system to support struggling high streets, calling for a rates freeze and a “rates holiday” for small shop owners.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King and British Retail Consortium chairman Ian Cheshire have also thrown their weight behind the campaign.

Retailers are urging the Government to reconsider how business rates are determined and pleading for business rates to be frozen at the current level.

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retail Association (Bira), said the involvement of Green and other retail chiefs had changed the campaign “significantly”. He added: “We’ve been talking about business rate reform for years now and it is good it is finally catching on.”

Last week high street retailers including John Lewis, Tesco and Sainsbury’s gave evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, urging the Government to rebalance the system.

Janine O’Keefe, owner of contemporary womenswear retailer Okeefe in Esher, Surrey, said she hopes Green will be able to “influence and instigate change”. She added: “I’m happy to pay rates, but they need to be cut by 50% at least. At the moment they are more than half my rent.”

Dave Conaghan, co-owner of young fashion store Chocolate in Derry, Northern Ireland, said: “I definitely think the likes of Philip Green backing the campaign to lower rates will have a positive effect.”

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