Save high street with business rates freeze says lobby group

Jasper Jolly
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The British high street has struggled in the last two years (Source: Getty)

A freeze on business rates should be the central plank of government efforts to help the struggling British high street, a small business lobby group will say today.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) will today call for no increase in rates in April 2019, the deadline for the next inflation-linked increase in business rates, the council taxes paid on non-domestic properties.

The group also demands that government should look to introduce a "London weighting" to reliefs offered to struggling firms, by increasing thresholds for "intensely pressured areas".

High street firms have struggled in the past two years as consumer spending has fallen. At the same time, bricks-and-mortar retailers face a disadvantage from the tax compared to online rivals who pay significantly less because of their less expensive out-of-town properties.

Mike Cherry, FSB national chair, said: "It’s clear the pressure is mounting. Spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents are piling on to small retailers, hospitality businesses and others on the high street."

The government raises around £30bn from business rates every year, meaning any changes to the way rates are calculated would need to be made up elsewhere.

Other recommendations from the group to help the high street include the creation of more free parking in town centres, investment in road maintenance, and "safeguards" on access to cash and banking services by preserving cash machines and bank branches.

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