Britain’s high streets will be dominated by charity shops and betting shops unless business rates are overhauled, a senior Tory councillor has warned.
With just under two weeks to go until the Budget, Philip Hammond was urged to create a ‘level playing field’ for regular shops as they face an onslaught from online giants.
The leader of Westminster City Council called for a 1 per cent turnover tax on tech giants such as Amazon to alleviate the pain.
Hammond told the Tory party conference last month he might introduce a digital services tax on web giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.
The Mail has called for a reform of business rates as part of our Save Our High Streets campaign amid a crisis gripping the sector.
Around 50,000 retail jobs have already been lost this year, and about 61,000 stores have shut in the past five years.
Major retailers such as Poundworld, Toys R Us and Maplin have gone bust while House of Fraser was saved from collapse by Sports Direct.
Councillor Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster City Council, said: ‘I absolutely support the Mail’s campaign. Westminster City Council has already called for a 1 per cent turnover tax on tech titans.
‘I would ask the Treasury: do we want to continue the decline so that the only things left on the High Street are charity shops and betting shops?’
Business rates are based on the estimated rental value of a retailer’s property. Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: ‘It becomes a real challenge to afford, because it doesn’t matter how well or how badly you’re doing, the cost is not going down.’
Edward Woodall, head of policy at the Association of Convenience Stores, said the tax discourages investment.
If a shopkeeper refurbishes their store, or installs new equipment, it makes the property more valuable, so rates go up. He said: ‘The system doesn’t really incentivise investment.’