Wholesale review of Britain’s business rates system needed

The Mayor of the West Midlands has called for a wholesale review of Britain’s business rates system in an attempt to save struggling high streets.

Andy Street, the former managing director of John Lewis, told the Treasury Select Committee that business rates fall disproportionately on the retail and manufacturing sectors, arguing the system must be overhauled in order to help town centres.

The Mayor of the West Midlands also warned that the series of reliefs brought in by Chancellor Philip Hammond are not sustainable, and that a full review of business rates is now required to make the system, which only makes up four per cent of total taxation but heavily impacts on the fortune of high streets, fit for purpose again.

As part of his evidence, Street called for reduced rates for new and expanding businesses, as well as a 100 per cent relief for public sector organisations who bring their services into high street units. This is part of a plan to turn town centres into ‘free trade zones’, which would give enhanced powers to local authorities and more support for shops and local businesses.

The West Midlands Combined Authority has recently launched a £20 million town centres regeneration programme to regenerate five areas: Bilston, Dudley, Walsall and West Bromwich in the Black Country and Bordesley Green in Birmingham.

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