Retail bosses call for business rates holiday extension ahead of looming £2.8bn bill for London next year



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number of chief executives have urged the government to extend a business rates holiday, as fresh data revealed the bill for hard-hit companies in London will be £2.8 billion next year.

Bosses at retailer Ann Summers and pubs group Young’s were among those that spoke to the Evening Standard and made the plea ahead of the rates holiday, launched at the start of the pandemic to help the High Street ride out the virus crisis, finishing at the end of March.

Firms are worried that even if a vaccine is secured soon, it will take time for pre-Covid customer numbers to return.  

The latest lockdown also means scores of venues are closed until next month, losing out on important sales in the run up to Christmas.

Property agency Altus Group has calculated that the  business rates bill for the 66,374 venues that did not have to pay in the capital this year, will be £2.8 billion for the year starting April 2021.

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Patrick Dardis at Young’s said it is “critical” the rates holiday is extended. He added: “It will take a year plus post the pandemic for most business to get back to anywhere near normal.”

Jacqueline Gold at lingerie chain Ann Summers said: “We need some form of extension or at least tapering of the holiday, but even more importantly, there needs to be fundamental reform to the business rates system which as it stands puts bricks and mortar retailers at a disadvantage to pure-play online rivals.”

Jewellery retailer Boodles’ Michael Wainwright said: “Even before the pandemic, the business rates system was regarded as an outdated and unfair tax on property owners. It was ripe for transformation then and even more so now.”

Neil Clifford at accessories firm Kurt Geiger, said London would be worst hit  by the rates, and pointed out that capital could also suffer from the planned move to end tax free shopping.

Sean Dixon at Savile Row tailor Richard James said: “We don’t know what the business landscape will be like next spring but at the very least it will be challenging.”

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A Treasury spokesperson said: “Our business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure is in place until the end of March, providing relief for businesses worth over £10 billion. This is part of a broader package of support that is one of the most generous and comprehensive in the world.”

He added: “We keep our support under constant review and are committed to helping people and businesses through this crisis.”