New PM should set business rate to save high street: Iceland boss

One of Britain’s biggest shoppers joins calls to prioritize shake-up of ‘outdated’ business rates to Tory leadership candidates

  • Iceland boss Richard Walker urges next PM to promise ‘root and branch’ reform
  • Walker said the levy is punishing bricks and mortar retailers
  • Their intervention follows a similar call from the Retail Jobs Alliance

One of Britain’s biggest shopkeepers has joined calls for Tory leadership candidates to prioritize a change to ‘outdated’ business rates.

Iceland’s boss Richard Walker urged the next prime minister to promise a ‘root and branch’ reform of the tax.

He added that the levy is punishing bricks-and-mortar retailers and that without fundamental change, the High Street will ‘continue to fall’.

Rationale: Iceland boss Richard Walker urges next prime minister to promise ‘root and branch’ reform of the tax

His intervention came after a similar call from the Retail Jobs Alliance (RJI) – a consortium of the Retail Jobs Alliance (RJI) – which includes Tesco, Sainsbury’s and B&Q owner Kingfisher -.

RJI members employ more than a million people – a third of all jobs in the sector. And last week it accused Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss of ‘failing to prioritize the High Street’.

Business rates are based on rental value and not profit. Walker said the reform is especially important as hard-pressed shoppers turn to retailers such as Iceland, which has about 1,000 stores in the UK.

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Iceland has locked the price in its £1 price range until 2023 – meaning it now sells products at a loss.

Walker said: ‘Our business rate bill is over £40m a year. It’s just unfair. You have massive online businesses that are getting piggy banks for free.

He pointed out that the online giant benefits from the same infrastructure as brick-and-mortar retailers, but doesn’t pay a fair share of the tax it funds.

Walker said the improvement in trade rates would encourage more retailers to open businesses. It will revitalize the city and city centres. Front-runner Truss, the foreign secretary, has promised to ‘cut taxes from day one’ if he becomes PM, while former chancellor Sunak will eliminate VAT on fuel.

He has otherwise refrained from promising tax cuts, but unveiled plans over the weekend to revitalize high streets and reduce closed shops.

Walker said candidates should focus on occupational rates because they will have a big impact on jobs, productivity and level.

He said that after getting help through the pandemic, businesses were happy to pay back the government’s generosity.

Walker said: ‘I think it is correct that we say that a few percentage points increase in corporation tax is not a big deal.

‘In turn it is entirely about jobs, productivity, leveling and high roads that need improvement in trade rates.’

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