Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 4th July 2018
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called on the government to freeze business rate increases for a period of two years in order to ease some of the financial pressures being faced by high street operators across the country.
Describing the current business rates system as “unsustainable”, the BRC has pointed out that retailers pay roughly a quarter of all rates paid each year in the UK despite accounting for only 5 per cent of overall economic activity.
“This is a disproportionate burden and is leading to decisions to close stores, while at the same time getting in the way of the modernisation and reinvention of Britain’s high streets,” said Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive.
The consortium has suggested that the retail sector is in dire need of some form of financial relief “at a time when it is under significant cost pressure and is going through a period of transformation driven by technology and changing consumer behaviour”.
“We’re calling on government to freeze business rates until the 2021 revaluation to relieve the burden of this unfair tax on retail businesses and allow time for dialogue about the wholesale modernisation of business taxation,” Ms Dickinson said.
“This would be welcome government support for the country’s largest private sector employer at a critical time,” she said.
A series of telling statistics were issued alongside the BRC’s recent statements to underline the extent to which the UK’s retail sector has been struggling over the past few years.
The figures suggest that there are nearly 2,500 fewer retail outlets operating in the UK now than was the case just three years ago.
As many as 3,200 retail sector insolvencies have been recorded since 2014, with average profit levels down across the industry.
In recent days, the Press Association reported that Britain’s retail sector saw in the region of 50,000 jobs lost or put in serious jeopardy over the course of the first six months of this year.
Business rate costs are widely considered to be a significant factor contributing to the financial difficulties currently being faced by high street retailers throughout the country.