Worried Conservative MPs in “red wall” seats won from Labour at the last General Election have called on the Chancellor to cut business rates, days after Labour announced it would abolish the tax at its party conference this week.
Tory MPs who won crucial seats in 2019 in Labour’s northern heartlands, including Bishop Auckland’s Dehenna Davison, Lee Anderson from Ashfield and Leigh’s James Grundy have jointly said high street shops were most at risk of closure in their constituencies.
Business rates currently raise revenues of about £25bn a year in England alone but a review is currently underway which is expected to report this autumn.
Shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said this week that a Labour government would freeze business rates and eventually replace them with a new, as yet undefined system.
Data published last week by the British Retail Consortium has also been making headlines with four out of five larger retailers warning they would probably have to close more stores unless business rates were reduced.
The call for radical business rates’ reform has been strengthened by more than 8,700 chain stores closing in UK high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in the first six months of 2021.
Constituencies with the highest numbers of vacant shops highlighted in a recent report were all in the north with 20% of units are vacant in the north-east, and 17% in Yorkshire & Humber and the north-west. This compares to 10% in London and 12% in the south-east.
At the Labour Party Conference, Reeves told delegates: “The Conservative government should listen, stop with the sticking plasters and come up with real action to support businesses,” she said. “Labour would immediately cut business rates, and in the long run we would scrap them altogether.”