Lack of answers on business rates a blow to beleaguered retail and leisure sector

Danni Hewson
23 March 2021

“Today could have been a watershed moment for our high streets.  Instead, the government has kicked the much anticipated and badly needed can of business rates reform firmly down the boarded-up road,” comments Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell. 

“Businesses, particularly those in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries are having to make tough decisions right now about whether they can reopen successfully.  Many will be struggling with the dilemma of whether it is worth the expense if customers are slow to return or worse, if they don’t come back at all.

“For some, the calculations being made now will highlight a fine line between profitability and folly and business rates are a significant and some would say unfair burden.

“Will they be replaced by some kind of sales tax that shares that burden with online retailers?  Will revaluations take place more regularly to better keep up with changing fortunes? Will the whole system be simplified and will appeals be heard more quickly? And what of offices which have slipped through the rate relief net during the pandemic?  Most of those questions are addressed in today’s 33-page report but there are no answers, not yet. 

“Perhaps it’s unfair to expect those answers during a pandemic, but what better time for change and what a difference it could make.”

Danni Hewson
Financial Analyst

Danni spent more than 19 years at the BBC, presenting and reporting on business news across a variety of programmes – including BBC Breakfast, BBC News Channel, BBC Look North and latterly Radio 5 Live’s flagship business programme ‘Wake up to Money’. She is now responsible for producing analysis and commentary across a broad range of subjects at AJ Bell, from financial markets, to economics and personal finance.

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