Convenience store retailers from across the UK gathered in Westminster yesterday to call on ministers to reform the business rates system.

The Association of Convenience Stores set out measures to make the business rates system fairer at its annual Heart of the Community conference. The measures include:

  • Legislating to introduce a permanent 2% cap on annual increases in business rates, and freeze rates for small businesses for at least two years
  • Allow more businesses to qualify for the small business rate by increasing the threshold for qualification from £18,000 to £50,000 rateable value
  • Increase the frequency of revaluations undertaken by the Valuation Office Agency to at least once every three years
  • Promote a greater use of discretionary rate relief in supporting high streets.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It is time for government to accept that it cannot increase the revenue it takes from businesses through property tax year after year without choking off the investment we need in our high streets and local centres.

“Only a fundamental change in approach will work. In our submission to the Treasury we have set out steps to cement the positive short-term measures already taken to reduce the burden of rates on retailers.”

Also speaking at the event, business minister Nick Boles said the challenge on business rates was to “come up with something better and revenue raising”.

Simon Danczuk, All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group chairman and Labour MP for Rochdale, backed the proposals. Responding to the call, he said: “Cancelling a much-needed revaluation has ensured that throughout this parliament many businesses have had to trade in difficult conditions, while being burdened by unfair business rates that bear no relation to property values.

“This tax is holding back the recovery and stifling entrepreneurialism and it desperately needs reform. Whenever we debate the future of Britain’s high streets, business rates remain the elephant in the room. I hope the Chancellor will act accordingly and make reforming this tax a priority in his Autumn Statement.”

But Boles said he was optimistic for the c-store sector. ”The next 10 to 15 years will be kinder to convenience stores than the rest of the physical retail industry. The big retailers with investments in huge physical stores will face the next few years with foreboding.”