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Retail task force attacks delay in revaluing business rates

The chairman of the Distressed Retail Property Taskforce has attacked a decision to delay a revaluation of business rates, telling MPs the move must have been politically motivated.

The task force was set up in 2012 to help tackle the problems of rundown high streets. Mark Williams said on Tuesday a two year postponement, which pushes the revaluation back from 2015 to 2017, would benefit prosperous parts of the country at the expense of poorer ones.

“You now have this ridiculous situation where the most distressed towns like Bromsgrove are supporting Bond Street and Walsall supporting the West End”, he said.

Joined by Edward Cooke, director of policy and public affairs at the British Council of Shopping Centres, the two men answered questions from a business department committee about improving Britain’s ailing retail sector.

Mr Cooke said money disbursed for the “Portas Pilots” – towns selected to benefit from initiatives in a 2012 review by Mary Portas, the government’s retail adviser – would be dwarfed by the effects of the delay.

Stockport is poised to receive £100,000 as part of the Portas scheme but will pay an extra £1.5m in business rates because the revaluation has been postponed, he said. Shop vacancy rates in the town are 28.8 per cent, compared with 10.6 per cent in London.

Business rates are set every five years and pegged to property prices and inflation.

The government’s decision in October to delay the revaluation has attracted controversy because the rates were last set in 2010, based on values from the peak of the property boom in 2008.

The government said the delay would provide business with a more stable environment and not give added benefit to retailers in London.

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