Minister promises ‘wide-ranging review’ of business rates

A government minister has pledged there will be a ‘fundamental and wide-ranging review of business rates’ as the department store chain Beales warns it could collapse into administration.

Speaking during a debate in the House of Commons, the Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said ‘everything is going to be reviewed’ in the joint review, which will be conducted by the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

‘All ideas, from all sides of the House, about how we improve the health of our high streets and our business community more generally, will certainly be taken on board,’ said Mr Berry.

The debate came as Beales warned its 22 stores around the country and 1,000 jobs were at risk if it could not find a buyer.

‘At the moment, in my view councils really don’t care,’ Beales ‘chief executive Tony Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘They get their business rates, whether we’re there or not, because the landlord pays if the store closes.’

The plight of Beales was raised by Suffolk MP Peter Aldous during the debate, who has two of their stores in his constituency.

‘It is clear that the crippling impact of business rates has been a significant contributory factor to the difficulties it is currently facing,’ said Mr Aldous.

‘I acknowledge the rates relief the government have provided to smaller businesses, but may I urge my right hon. friend to ensure, in the review of business rates that is due to take place, that the government not only consider root and branch reform but the replacement of rates, too?’

But the government came under fire from Labour MP Jim McMahon, who claimed the county’s high streets and town centres are in ‘crisis’, with ‘more shops closing than opening’.

‘The government keep falling way below what is needed to take real action that will make a difference,’ said Mr McMahon.

‘When will they take real action to address the fundamental weakness of our business taxation system to give our high streets and town centres a fighting chance? As a practical suggestion, why not look at enterprise-type zones for our town centres with incentives to make sure that they have a future?’

In reply, Mr Berry said he would look at the Labour MP’s suggestion about high street enterprise zones.

Photo Credit – derwiki (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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