Think-tank joins the call for a freeze on high street rates


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The Independent Online

An influential think-tank has become the latest organisation to call on the Government to alleviate the punishing impact of business rates in an effort to curb the spiralling number of store closures on the  high street.

Policy Exchange has urged the Coalition to implement an immediate two-year freeze on business rates, but “only to buy breathing space” to undertake  wider reform.

The British Retail Consortium has estimated that retailers faced a £175m increase in their business rates bill last month when the latest 2.6 per cent rise came in. Alex Morton, the head of housing and planning at Policy Exchange, said: “The main issue in retail is clearly the continuing rise of the internet as a rival to traditional stores.” Ahead of a debate in Parliament today about the Government’s response to the high street’s woes, the number of boarded-up shops in town centres is at a record of 11.9 per cent, according to the BRC.

Paul Turner-Mitchell, a campaigner for high street reform, said: “The business rate system is no longer fit for purpose in a multi-channel era and places high streets at a considerable disadvantage.”