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Chancellor ‘misses opportunity’ to help retail

Disappointment as Spring Statement doesn’t address pending business rates rise


LEADING retail figures have criticised the lack of support for the industry in the Spring Statement yesterday, Wednesday, March 13, where Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his spending plans for the coming six months.

Retail Gazette reported that the criticism centres on the £186million increase in business rates retailers face in April, as well as the ongoing challenges that plague the high street in general.
“It is disappointing that the Spring Statement does nothing to support struggling high streets at a time when they are weighed down by the twin burdens of skyrocketing business rates and Brexit uncertainty,” British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“The Chancellor has heeded our warnings that a no-deal Brexit would result in higher prices for consumers, however, it’s not enough to be confident in a future deal and it will take actions, not just words, to make it so.”
John Webber, head of business rates at real estate services firm Colliers International, said: “It’s disappointing that the Chancellor did not make any meaningful noises about reforming business rates in his Spring Statement. The Armageddon on the British High Street has been well chronicled with over 70,000 retail jobs lost at the end of 2018 and more announced this year.
“As we go into April some businesses, particularly those in central London, will see the third set of eye-watering rises to their business rates bills since the 2017 Revaluation. This is unsustainable. Something really needs to be done – and it needs to be done now."
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London’s West End and Mayfair, said: “Today the Chancellor missed a huge opportunity to support retailers and the nation’s High Streets.
“With the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the challenging economic climate, the Government should be doing everything in its power to support businesses yet at the end of the month business rates are set to surge by £45m this year in London’s West End, hitting businesses at a critical time of change.
“We urge the Government to look seriously at wider reform of business taxation to ensure that it is fair and does not disproportionately hit the high street.”
Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at real estate adviser Altus Group, said the Chancellor “missed a golden opportunity” to help major retail businesses who are reducing their estates and headcount as a result of the current uncertainties, all of whom now face the highest standard tax rate since 1990 at more than 50 per cent from April 1.

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