New business rates to kill independent UK shops, warns Mary Portas

Mary Portas is the latest business figure to warn the Government of the effects of the planned rise in business rates, which are set to change drastically for many retailers, particularly in the South East of England, in April.


Photo: Mary Portas at MTM 2014

The “Queen of Shop”, who is known for her retail- and business- related TV shows and for being once appointed by former MP David Cameron to lead a review into the future of Britain’s high streets, has said the revaluation is “madness” and will kill off a third of independent retailers.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Portas urged Prime Minister Theresa May to scrap the system completely, stating it will be the worst blow to independent shops since the financial crisis of 2008.

Although the majority of businesses across the country will be unaffected or better off by the changes, some businesses will see their bills increase by up to 245%.

“In 2011 I was commissioned by the government to look at how we could save our high streets,” Portas wrote in The Telegraph.

"Six years on and we were really making progress. So it's strange to watch our leaders preparing to impose a new business rates revaluation that will cripple high street shops. The tax bill, which will hit retailers from April, will be the single biggest blow to independent shops since the financial crisis. I would estimate that at least a third of them will die off,” said Portas.

The impending rise will create ghost towns, where “the only mix will be of charity shops, bookies and Costa,” she added.

The Government has said the new system will make conditions fairer across the whole of England. For small properties, bill rises will be capped at 5% in the first year, with a dedicated system of transitional relief worth £3.4 billion to help business owners adjust to the new bills.

Large properties such as Harrods and Selfridges, and shops in London are however facing more substantial increases.

Mary Portas joins a number of business figures who have criticized the new tax legislation, including Helen Dickinson, chief executive of British Retail Consortium and Tesco boss Dave Lewis.

Luxury jewellery brand De Beers, partly owned by LVMH, has also said it will relocate its London flagship store due to the rise.
 

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