The retail industry has called for action on rising business rates as the Retail Price Index (RPI) was announced at 2.6%.
September’s RPI, which is used to calculate business rates for the following April, was slightly down compared to August (2.9%) but still higher than the government’s 2% target.
This 2.6% increase in business rates for April 2013 will mean yet more pressure on struggling retailers. Last year September’s RPI was 5.6% in 2011, costing the convenience retail industry £35m.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged the chancellor to act on rising business rates. “Year-on-year increases in business rates have put pressure on businesses and choked off investment at a time when growth is desperately needed. After refusing to acknowledge the issue of business rates in the 2012 Budget, the chancellor can no longer afford to ignore this problem.
“Linking the annual rates increase to September’s RPI is artificial and damaging. We need a new system for setting the rates increase and a cap on increases that provides retailers with certainty when planning for the future.”
British Retail Consortium director Stephen Robertson joined the call for a rates freeze. “This RPI announcement reveals the scale of the potential damage to our high streets that will follow if the government follows previous practice and translates it directly into next April’s rates increase,” he said. “Expecting retailers to bear a huge rates hike for the third year running can only lead to fewer chances of work, less investment and more troubled high streets.
“The government must recognise that retail has already contributed its fair share to the Exchequer and freeze business rates in 2013,” he added. “It also needs to reform the mechanism for setting future increases so that it is fairer and less volatile.”