Ministers 'dropped plans to help high street shops over business rates'


Ministers considered extra financial support to ease the impact of business rates on high street shops before the general election, but later dropped the plans, it was reported.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was worried about the business rates formula hitting retailers and worked with the Treasury to protect the sector, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

But despite the publication of a review before the 2015 vote, ideas for wholesale changes to the system were dropped and more modest reforms were adopted instead.

Ministers are facing a backlash over the revaluation of business rates amid concerns that some retailers will see their business rates increase by 400% as fears mount that the process will result in a raft of store closures.

Concerns about the impact of rates on shops, particularly on the high street, were behind the review carried out under the coalition government, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

A former Tory minister told the newspaper: "Retail gets clobbered. It's not beyond the wit of man to be able to put together a formula that takes that into consideration. Frankly (we) were working on that prior to the general election."

The source added: "You have a Government policy that says you want to protect high streets, you want to protect shops.

"In truth the high street is part of the answer but it's also small little suburban rows of shops that will be completely clobbered. That was very much on our mind.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has insisted the revaluation - the first in seven years - will result in cuts in bills for thousands of businesses.

The DCLG said nearly three-quarters of businesses across the country will see no change to their bills, or a reduction.

For the "small minority" who will see an increase, there will be a system of transitional relief - worth £3.6 billion -  to bring it in gradually over five years, as well as increases in small business rate relief.