A new survey of MPs has found that the majority want a freeze on business rates next year.
The British Retail Consortium commissioned a poll of 106 Members of Parliament between October 23 and November 12 2012, which revealed that two-thirds support a freeze, and that it is supported equally by Conservative and Labour MPs.
The BRC is now calling on the Chancellor to announce in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement that there will be no business rates rise in April 2013.
The poll also revealed that 66% of MPs think we should move to a “fairer and more predictable” system for setting increases in rates as a matter of urgency, and that 66% also believe high streets in their constituencies have deteriorated noticeably in the last five years.
73% think the cost of operating on the high street must be brought under control to encourage investment, while 76% agree that local partnerships, such as Business Improvement Districts, are essential to managing the high streets in their constituency and should be encouraged.
Today also sees the BRC publish a new audit of the state of UK high streets, called 21st Century High Streets: What next for Britain’s town centres? It tracks progress since the BRC’s original rescue plan, published in 2009, and identifies action still needed.
As well as calling for a freeze on business rates and for future increases to be based on the Consumer Price Index, it says issues surrounding parking must be addressed. Parking is still too often seen as a council revenue raiser rather than an essential service supporting town centre businesses, argues the BRC.
It also points out that retail crime cost UK retailers £1.4bn in 2010/11, up on the previous year. Newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners must recognise the needs of high street businesses and prioritise retail crime to protect local jobs, staff and customers, it says.
In addition, the BRC says that while retailers are contributing voluntarily towards £168m of investment by BIDs many high streets still need an urgent re-evaluation covering what they offer, how they are marketed and the vision for their future.