Cut business rates to save high street, urge ‘red wall’ Tories

Conservative MPs in “red wall” seats are pushing the chancellor to slash business rates, echoing calls made just days ago by Labour.

Tories with constituencies in Labour’s northern heartlands believe high street shops are most at-risk in the areas that Boris Johnson has promised to “level up”.

They include Bishop Auckland’s Dehenna Davison, Leigh’s James Grundy and Lee Anderson from Ashfield.

Business rates, which raise about £25 billion a year in England, have long been controversial.

READ MORE: Returning office workers spark high street resurgence

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last year promised a review of the tax, which is expected to report this autumn.

According to the British Retail Consortium, 83 per cent of retailers are likely to close shops if business rates are not reduced.

On Monday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said that a Labour government would scrap business rates and raise taxes on digital sales.

“High street businesses pay over a third of business rates, despite making up only 15 per cent of the overall economy,” she told the party conference.

Taking a swipe at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, she added: “If you can afford to fly to space, you can pay your taxes here on Earth.”

Of the constituencies with the most vacant shops, 20 per cent are in the north-east, while 17 per cent are in Yorkshire & Humber and the north-west.

Just 10 per cent are in London and 12 per cent in the south-east.

“My constituency is one of the worst affected in the whole of England and Wales,” James Grundy told the Guardian.

“I’m now convinced that bringing these costs down should be an essential part of the levelling-up agenda.”

In February, 45 Conservative backbenchers demanded that Sunak cut business rates from about 50 per cent of market rent to about 35 per cent.

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