Business Rates’ North/South divide still a reality – report

Northern businesses are facing a higher business rates’ burden as a proportion of earnings than those in the South, according to a report out today.

The study by consultancy WPI Strategy and commissioned by Tesco based its findings on data from the store’s 2,700 outlets in England and Wales to highlight the north/south divide.

Researchers found that 77 per cent of constituencies in the top 10 per cent of rates burden are in the North and Midlands, compared with just 18 per cent in London and the South.  As business rates don’t take into account economic performance, areas that are being financially squeezed also have the higher tax burden.

The constituencies in need of levelling up make up around 30 per cent of seats in England and Wales. And 68 per cent of these constituencies are in the North and Midlands; 17 of the 20 most in need of levelling up are in the North, with the remaining three in the Midlands. Wales and coastal areas are also highly represented.

Blackpool South, Middlesbrough, Bradford West, Liverpool Walton, Great Grimsby, Hartlepool, Bradford East, Hull West and Hessle, Birmingham Erdington and Birmingham Ladywood are the constituencies most in need of Levelling Up. Only 22 constituencies in the non-London south are in need of levelling up.

The report – Open for Business – combines the data on the business rates burden with a new Levelling Up Index, which uses six socio-economic indicators to assess every parliamentary constituency in England and Wales in terms of their levelling up needs.

You can view the Levelling Up Map here: The map gives a score to each constituency based on their overall ‘levelling up’ ranking. As an example, the constituency most in need of levelling up, Blackpool South, has a ranking of 1. The constituency least in need of levelling up, South Cambridgeshire, has a ranking of 573.

The also report makes a series of recommendations including reducing business rates to a fixed, 40 per cent tax rate for retail to support shops in the UK’s regions. The Government’s own Business Rates’ review is still ongoing.