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19th Oct, 2021

MP says Labour’s pledge to scrap business rates is good news for struggling town centres

LABOUR’S plan to scrap business rates would be a major boost for our high streets. Our commitment to fairer business taxation is essential and long needed – and will benefit the Warwick and Leamington constituency more than others.

Urgent reform will be key if we want to salvage beleaguered town centres and small businesses across the country after the pandemic. But it could be particularly important locally after closures of smaller firms, the loss of M&S in Warwick town centre and price hikes in Tesco in The Parade, Leamington.

Warwick and Leamington’s shopping streets have suffered due to the pandemic, business rates, high rents, and the shifting business models of major firms. We have seen small businesses, pubs and restaurants close during the pandemic – and major firms turn their back on our town centres in search of cost savings.

Fairer taxation will ease the financial burden on all companies as they look to recover. The Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves says Labour’s new system will incentivise investment, provide instant reductions in bills where property values fall and reward businesses’ green improvements – with no public services or local authorities losing out.

Labour’s pledge comes ahead of a ‘cliff edge’ for companies as a 66 per cent relief on business rates comes to an end in March next year. And we have promised to cut and eventually replace business rates with an entirely new system. Companies pay business rates according to the value of the premises they occupy – and they have for years been derided by business groups as outdated and unfair.

M&S opened a new out-of-town department store in August at the expense of its Warwick and Leamington town centre supermarket and clothes store respectively. In February, M&S boss Steve Rowe called on the Government to overhaul ‘unbearable’ business rates.

Tesco Metro in The Parade last month rebranded to an Express model, triggering price rises, job losses and a decline in selection. This is not acceptable and the economic impact on many constituents is significant. Labour wants to see all stores in our town centres thrive but businesses also need to act responsibly.

The cost of living crisis is now serious and the Government needs to listen to businesses as Labour is doing. We are building partnerships with smaller businesses that are the backbone of our economy. Instead, this Government is attempting to blame businesses for failing to prepare for a brutal fallout from the pandemic and, indeed, Brexit – amid key worker, fuel, and HGV driver shortages. A fallout everyone predicted but Government ministers senselessly dismissed.

Matt Western

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