Ahead of the Budget, due to be delivered on Wednesday, a group of 45 Conservative MPs from constituencies in the north of England are urging the Chancellor to ‘save the High Street’ by cutting business rates.

In a letter sent to Rishi Sunak, the MPs – from the Northern Research Group – are requesting that the Chancellor considers cutting the tax paid by stores from 50% to 35%, as a means of supporting businesses for as long as COVID restrictions remain in place.

Although the MPs acknowledge that the business rates holiday ‘undoubtedly saved hundreds of retail businesses’, when it is lifted they argue that the burden of business rates will continue impacting the areas which most need support. It is their position that reducing the tax when rates are reintroduced would ‘ensure retailers have the confidence to invest in their bricks and mortar stores and save High Streets across the country’.

‘Longer-term fundamental reform’ is needed to enable shops to compete against online retailers, they add.

On 28 February, the Government announced a £5 billion grant scheme to help High Street shops and hospitality reopen when lockdown eases.

Sunak is reported to be striving for an international agreement with other countries on proposed sales taxes for online retailer giants such as Amazon, in order to put in place more robust policy on ‘how to tax these large multinational digital companies properly’.

Ahead of the Budget, bira – which represents the interests of independent retailers – has revealed its ‘wish list’ which includes ‘an extension to business rates relief’ as a ‘top priority’.

The organization says in a statement: “Bira is appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to consider the independent retail sector when he presents his Budget on Wednesday [3 March]. The three measures Bira would like to see in the Budget are: extension of the rates holiday for the whole of 2021/22 to support businesses while they return to return to normal when consumer confidence is fully restored; extension of the legal moratorium preventing landlords from taking action against tenants unable to meet rent demands; extension of the furlough scheme as businesses reopen to lower footfall to begin with.”

Andrew Goodacre, Bira CEO, comments: “We hope the Chancellor continues to listen to us and protect businesses, livelihood and jobs as we look to recover from more than a year of disruption.”