Rates Threaten Hospitality Businesses

A coalition of leading hospitality, retail and leisure organisations have written to the United Kingdom Chancellor to urge him to freeze the business rates multiplier and extend existing reliefs for a further year at the upcoming Autumn Statement.

UKHospitality, British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores, British Independent Retail Association and ukactive are warning that businesses, jobs and the future of high streets are at risk without the measures. The sectors combine to pay more than £10 billion in business rates a year. The inflation-linked increase to the business rates multiplier will cost retail businesses £480m and hospitality businesses £234m. An end to current relief will cost hospitality £630m and retail £750m.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said that freezing rates and extending relief will be a lifeline for a sector that simply cannot absorb any more costs. She pointed out that inaction will leave hospitality businesses with no choice but to put prices up, open less, or, in the worst case scenario, shut their doors for good.

“Pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels, to name a few, act as pillars of their communities, and they want to continue in that central role, as well as driving economic growth and providing countless jobs. Action on business rates at the Autumn Statement is critical to that,” said Nicholls.

Hospitality, leisure, and retail businesses will all be significantly affected by business rate increases, and it will have knock-on impacts on consumers. A recent survey of UKHospitality members showed that 66 percent of businesses would reduce investment, 61 percent would raise prices, and 41 percent would reduce opening hours if rates relief was removed. Members of ukactive reported that 75 percent were ‘extremely likely’ to have to increase customer pricing in the next six months, with 88 percent having already been forced to raise prices over the past year.

In a survey of BRC members, 66 percent of retailers responded that they were ‘very concerned’ about an increase in businesses rates, with 69 percent adding it would place ‘significant pressure’ on the prices paid by customers.

Chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, said that retailers are staring down the barrel or a £480 million-a-year hike in their business rates bills from next Spring.

“Such a hefty increase will threaten to put renewed pressure on retail prices, as well as block new investment in our town and city centres. It is essential that the Chancellor uses the Autumn Statement to freeze business rates and give our local communities a fighting chance to thrive.”

Other associations to have joined the effort include Ukactive, the British Independent Retail Association, and the Association of Convenience Stores.