high street

The government’s final report on business rates is due in autumn

The government has been accused of subjecting industry to “groundhog day” on business rates after publishing a consultation report containing no firm policy proposals.

The interim report, published yesterday, outlined responses to a review of business rates launched last spring. The final report is due this autumn.

However, critics argue the responses are simply what industry has been saying for years, and the report is the latest example of government inaction on the issue.

“Everything that’s been said has already been said on all previous consultations,” said Colliers head of business rates John Webber. “It’s like groundhog day.

“We say what we think from what we see in the marketplace and from our clients, we submit evidence, the government produces a report and then usually nothing happens.

“I know the government is planning to reveal its thoughts in the autumn, but I can’t understand why they can’t reveal them now when the evidence is so unchanged?

“We are desperately disappointed there is no indication of further action.”

Real estate advisor Altus Group was concerned the report hinted at a government U-turn in an opening statement referring to the “undeniable pressures on the public finances” since the review was launched.

“It remains to be seen whether the government will now be able to deliver upon their election manifesto pledge to cut the overall burden of business rates in the long term,” said Altus Group UK president of property tax Robert Hayton.

“There now seems to be a distinct shift away from that pledge in favour of a commitment of simply improving the tax system.”

Industry recommendations in the report include an online sales tax to reduce the burden on physical shops, more frequent rate revaluations and ending ‘transitional relief’, which limits how quickly a business’ bill can fall following a revaluation.

BRC property policy advisor Dominic Curran said: “The interim report outlines the views of business, now we need government to act as soon as possible, so we can fix this broken tax once and for all.”

Vivienne King, CEO of shopping centre industry body Revo, accused Jesse Norman, the financial secretary to the Treasury, of adopting “the strategy of the Grand Old Duke of York”.

“He has marched us up to the top of the hill by leading us to believe there would be a policy signpost in this report. Now we’re marching back down again without any clear direction of what retail can expect.”