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UK: British Retail Consortium calls for action over rates bills

PUBLISHED: 13:09 27 December 2012

A brisk start to the post-Christmas sales season cannot disguise the cost pressures being felt by high street retailers, says the British Rail Consortium

A brisk start to the post-Christmas sales season cannot disguise the cost pressures being felt by high street retailers, says the British Rail Consortium

HELP for Britain’s ailing high streets should be a top priority for MPs in 2013, the retail industry’s trade body said yesterday.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) called on MPs to step up the pressure on the Government to reverse a planned 2.6% increase in business rates due in April.

Its demand comes in the wake of recent figures showing that the empty shops rate in town centres has reached a new high of 11.3%. A poll of MPs also revealed that two-thirds believe high streets in their constituencies have deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.

BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: “MPs understand that high streets are focal points for communities and essential to local economies.

“But many high streets are facing a real endurance test in these challenging times, and rising operating costs are making matters worse.”

Rates have risen by more than 10% in the last two years, adding more than £500million to retailers’ overheads amid the tough trading conditions.

The BRC is running a campaign called Fair Rates for Retail in a bid to establish a more sustainable formula. Next April’s 2.6% rise is based on September’s Retail Prices Index inflation figure.

Ms Dickinson said: “I urge MPs to keep pushing for change if they want to breathe life back into our town centres and preserve and protect local businesses.”

Another rise in rates would pose a serious threat to vulnerable town centres and mean fewer jobs, especially for young people, she added.

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