CBI turning screws on Government over business rates

Director General of the CBI Dame Carolyn Fairbairn is turning the screws on the Government over business rates.

The CBI boss had written to the Chancellor to press the case of a full overhaul of business rates, with special mentions for retailers and manufacturers. The timing is no coincidence with the next full budget less than a month away.

Dame Carolyn has always been a staunch remainer in the Brexit debate but now seems to be striking a more positive note and acknowledging a ‘Boris bounce’ in confidence among CBI members. She was also due to meet Mr Javid next week, before his shock resignation, to discuss the eagerly anticipated Budget.

In her letter, which has been picked up by the national media, Dame Carolyn says that business rates are dragging down many parts of the country and adding to the woes on struggling high streets. The CBI wants a comprehensive review that will slash the bills paid by firms by the end of 2020. The measures it has put forward – such as removing VAT from plant and machinery – would cost the Treasury £800million annually.

Supermarkets are also piling on the pressure with Marks & Spencer blaming business rates for its decision to close more than 100 stores over the next two years. Its rates bill is said to be more than £180million in rates a year. That pales when compared to rival Tesco which says its annual business rates’ bill had almost doubled to £700million since 2010.

Elsewhere, there is a little more cheer with the confirmation from the Government on its increase in the retail relief for businesses with an RV up to £51,000 from 33% to 50% next financial year (part of the Conservative manifesto commitment) and the new announcement over the weekend of an additional £1,000 rate relief for pubs with an RV up to £100,000. Around 11,300 pubs won’t be paying any business rates, with a further 24,000 sharing a £24.5m relief pot between them.

This effectively re-introduces a relief from three years ago but these are for one year only – at this moment.