Budget 2021: Sunak's ‘woeful' business rates plan ‘falls far short' of 2019 Tory manifesto pledge

Asia's Tech News Daily

Retailers have accused the Conservative Party of failing to make good on a manifesto pledge to overhaul the UK’s business rates system following Rishi Sunak’s 2021 Budget announcement.  

Local, independent traders stand to save thousands of pounds thanks to the Chancellor’s decision to halve business rates – taxes paid by occupants of non-domestic properties. But larger high-street chains, which pay millions in business rates every year, have little to celebrate because the discount is capped at £110,000.

The decision will lead to shop closures and job losses, industry figures claim.

In its 2019 election manifesto, the Conservative Party promised to “cut the burden of tax on business by reducing business rates…via a fundamental review of the system”.

It said: “As a first step, we will further reduce business rates for retail businesses, as well as extending the discount to grassroots music venues, small cinemas and pubs. That means protecting your high street and community from excessive tax hikes and keeping town centres vibrant.”

Mark Richardson runs an independent record store, Loafers, in The Piece Hall cultural centre in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and pays around £1,000 per year in business rates. Cutting business rates is a “great” decision, and will support industry after a difficult period, said Mr Richardson, 42.  

“It will make a difference,” he said of the £500 he expects to save.

“Every penny counts now.”

Yet larger retailers, pubs and restaurants say Mr Sunak’s announcement “falls far short” of what is needed to help support bigger chains, which can face annual business rates bills of more than £10m.

“A 50 per cent discount for the retail and hospitality sectors will help some struggling high-street businesses, but not all,” said Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents hundreds of retailers and hospitality business in London’s West End shopping district.

“By capping the 50 per cent high street discount at £110,000, the benefit means little to city centre businesses.”

Mr Jace said the situation was similarly “woeful” for retailers in cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Cardiff.

“Independents are the lifeblood of towns and cities, but larger businesses are the biggest employers. They can’t invest, they can’t increase employment and they have to pass on [business rates] costs to consumers,” he added.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the announcement “falls far short” of the fundamental reform that is needed and was promised in the Government’s 2019 manifesto.

Budget 2021: Sunak’s ‘woeful’ business rates plan ‘falls far short’ of 2019 Tory manifesto pledge
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“While [the discount] may prove to be beneficial for the smallest businesses, it will do little to support the businesses that pay two thirds of retail business rates and employ 1.5 million people,” Ms Dickinson said.

“With no reduction in the burden, this will lead to the unnecessary loss of shops and jobs and fails to incentivise investment in all parts of the country. This is bad news for every member of the public who wants a vibrant high street in their local community, with retail at its heart.”

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