New research published today by the British Retail Consortium finds that 80% of MPs believe the current system of business rates is‘not fit for purpose and in need of fundamental reform’. The poll which also finds that 93% agree that ‘reform of business rates is an important area for the future success of the high street and town centres,’ demonstrates the emergence of a cross-party consensus on the need for reform. The BRC is calling on party leaders to sign up to reform in the run up the 2015 General Election.
The BRC is now publishing Manifesto Milestones, the next step in its campaign to see the complete reform of the UK business rates system by 2017. The BRC has previously highlighted the impact the current business rates system has on the retail industry’s ability to invest and create employment opportunities.
Today’s publication calls on all political parties to commit to fundamental reform of business rates. The BRC believes those parties that make this commitment will win broad support from businesses across industries, both large and small, currently suffering the inequalities created by the business rates system.
Since the BRC published Road to Reform in February it has consulted widely with other business sectors, particularly those in manufacturing and with groups representing small businesses. Those conversations have created a shared agenda of the need for fundamental reform and have made clear that the business rate system is not just a retail problem, but a business problem.
Further analysis of the BRC’s ideas for reform have highlighted what is required for future reform, namely; the total amount of business rates should be reduced; business rates should flex with overall economic performance, as other taxes do; business rates should be shared equitably across the economy and; the system should have positive incentives to encourage energy efficiency.
Commenting on today’s report, Helen Dickinson, Director General of the BRC said: “It is no longer an option to say that fundamental reform is too difficult or complicated – that particular ship has sailed. The challenge for politicians is to show us all how they are going to embrace the task of reform and deliver, with us, a system that is fit for the 21st century.
John Rogers, chief financial officer at Sainsbury’s, who has chaired the group of executive level members from right across the industry leading the project for the BRC said: “Our work has brought together small and large businesses from across sectors and businesses, but particularly from manufacturing who are also victims of our outdated system of business rates. We believe a new consensus has emerged that sends the powerful message that business rates aren’t a retail problem, but a business problem.”
Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North and member of the All Party Retail Group, said: “The present business rates system is archaic and flawed. Often business rates exceed rents and are not linked to business performance. The Government have eased rates for many small business but these measures are only temporary fixes. We need structural reform and the BRC have made a useful contribution to this policy debate.”