The Chancellor has been condemned for “kicking reforms further into the long grass” after pushing back an overhaul of business rates.
Retailers had hoped Rishi Sunak’s “fundamental review” of the system would be revealed in this month’s budget, but he is now expected to announce minor changes.
Business rates, based on property values from 2015, do not reflect the decline in the high street’s value since the pandemic.
Trade groups with nine million members said delaying reforms would risk further closures and halt investment.
CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said: “With up to half of business investment potentially subject to business rates, it has literally become a tax on investment.
“If the government is serious about achieving its net-zero ambitions, kicking reforms further into the long grass cannot be the answer.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has calculated that four in five bricks-and-mortar shops could close without action from the Chancellor.
“Delays would be a kick in the teeth to communities across the country who will see shops and jobs disappear,” BRC boss Helen Dickinson said.
“By standing by his party’s manifesto commitment of cutting the rates burden, the Chancellor can avoid the unnecessary loss of shops and jobs.”
She added that this would also bolster the government’s “levelling up agenda” by creating “investment in all parts of the country”.
Tory MPs who won seats in Labour’s northern heartlands have warned that the high street is most vulnerable in areas the PM has pledged to “level up”.
Bishop Auckland’s Dehenna Davison, Leigh’s James Grundy and Lee Anderson from Ashfield have all urged Sunak to slash business rates.
“I’m now convinced that bringing these costs down should be an essential part of the levelling-up agenda,” Grundy said two weeks ago.
Business rates, after reliefs, raise about £25 billion in England for the Treasury each year.