Retail guru’s plan for high street flawed, says ex-Wickes boss

 

The former boss of the DIY retailer Wickes has stepped up his criticism of the retail expert Mary Portas, stating that one of her key recommendations on business rates would have saved firms just 50p a week last year.

Bill Grimsey said Ms Portas’s idea to switch the business rates multiplier from the retail prices index to the consumer prices measure “would make barely any difference”, as part of his alternative review of the high street to be published next month.

Retailers argue they pay a disproportionate amount of business rates – property taxes linked to the rateable value of commercial premises and RPI – noting this tax is now higher than store rents in some areas. The £500m of rates increases over the past three years has contributed to retail administrations and one in seven town centre shops being left vacant.

In her government-commissioned report in 2011, Ms Portas said: “Make business rates work for business by reviewing the use of RPI with a view to changing the calculation to consumer prices index.” She did not respond to requests for comment.

If the Government had used the 5.2 per cent rate of CPI in September 2011 – used as the multiplier for 2012-13 – instead of RPI of 5.6 per cent, this would have only saved businesses a total of £46m, claims Mr Grimsey’s research. With 1.76 million commercial premises, this means each business would have paid £26.15 less in the rise for last year – saving firms about 50p a week.

Mr Grimsey said: “We need root-and-branch reform not tinkering in the margins.”

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