Our campaign to pressure the Government into launching an urgent reform of the controversial business ratings system has been given a welcome boost by Britain’s best known retail champion.
Broadcaster and businesswoman Mary Portas, dubbed the Queen of Shops, says she believes that business rates are one of the biggest threat to our high streets and believes the system is in need of immediate reform. Her comments come as leading business rates’ critic Paul Turner-Mitchell backed our campaign and signed our online petition which urges the Government to launch an urgent reform of the unpopular system.
Next Wednesday (December 3) George Osborne will make his Autumn Statement and many business leaders hope he will address the subject of business rates. So far 5,000 people have signed our petition which calls for an urgent review of business rates.
Mary Portas, who has advised the Government, said: “It was clear to me when I was asked by the coalition government to review the future of our High Streets that there was a lot to do if we were to save these neglected national treasures. We had to make being a trader on a high street economically viable; we had to re-imagine our public spaces as places of socialisation, entertainment, and education as well as commercial and retail space. We had to make access to our High Streets simple and we had to encourage local inspiring leadership for town teams.
“There were many other things to fix but these were the main issues dragging our High Streets backwards. The economic pressure facing small independent businesses on our High Streets – all kinds of businesses, not just shops - is enormous. They have to compete amongst other competitive threats they face major multiples, out of town centres and the rise of Internet shopping. But what they often tell me is that the greatest threat to their survival is Business Rates – a tax I have long argued is in need of urgent reform. If you’re an independent retailer on an average High Street, whilst vacancy rates are at their lowest since 2010, you probably still stand in the doorway and watch passers by and wonder if it’s all worth it. Unfair taxes, daft parking regimes, unreasonable competition and blinkered local councils probably did for a mate who had an opticians two doors down and you must wonder if you’ll be next.”
Mr Turner-Mitchell, a former fashion boutique owner, said: “Mary is right to say ‘Business Rates are the elephant in the sitting room’. Despite the UK having the highest level of property tax in the world, to make matters worse, during the life of this Parliament, this tax will have increased by over £5 billion.”