The former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland Bill Grimsey has been made an adviser to the Labour party and will help draw up the opposition’s strategy over business rates for small businesses – one of the hottest topics for retailers.
The businessman has already written a report on how to improve the high street – an alternative review to Mary Portas’s government report which led to 27 Portas Pilot schemes.
Labour have pledged to cut business rates for properties with annual rents of below £50,000 in 2015 and freeze levels in 2016, funded with a rise in corporation tax from 20 per cent to 21 per cent.
Reforms of business rates, which are calculated based on the rental value of each property, have been pushed by several retailers and the British Retail Consortium, persuading the Government to introduce a 2 per cent cap instead of rising in line with inflation.
This Christmas high street retailers particularly felt the pinch as shoppers went online and footfall numbers fell.
A report by the business select committee, which has been taking evidence in recent months from retailers and experts, is due to be published later this month and is expected to recommend root and branch reform of the system.
The shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said: “Ministers have displayed huge complacency in the face of soaring numbers of empty shops across Britain with many town centres left at risk of becoming ghost towns.
“We need action to back our retailers and support high streets so they can thrive as the beating heart of their communities once more.”