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Rise in empty shops shows need for business rates reform, say small firms

Responding to new figures from the BBC Data Unit showing that £1 billion in empty premises business rates relief is applied in England and Wales each year, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said:

“Local authorities are set to rake in £25 billion from business rates this year, a figure which has grown substantially of late, and is set to keep growing. 

“As business rates hikes contribute to closures on our high streets in increasing numbers, it would add insult to injury to then remove a relief for empty units. Fundamentally, without the current business rates system, we’d have far fewer empty shops on our high streets – and less of a need for empty premises relief.

“Instead, we should be scaling back a tax that has materially damaged firms all over the country, and recalibrating business rates to encourage a mixture of thriving small businesses on diverse high streets, which are at the heart of communities. 

“The government has promised a wholesale review of business rates, and it can’t come soon enough. Simplifying this outdated system and taking more of the small firms that need support most out of it must be the priority. Policymakers need to remember that it’s these businesses that inject competition and diversity into our business landscape.  

“It’s been encouraging to see the incoming administration double down on its commitment to increase the Retail Discount on rates to 50 per cent, and make it available to more types of businesses. Targeted relief like this should be the focus, rather than driving small firms out of communities they want to serve.”  


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