Brian Bickell said relief for retailers announced by Philip Hammond was welcome but did not go far enough
A West End landlord has called for ‘root-and-branch reform’ of business rates that are piling pressure on High Street shops.
Brian Bickell, boss of Shaftesbury, said relief for retailers announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond was welcome but did not go far enough.
He said it would help barely any shops in London’s West End, where Shaftesbury owns more than 560 buildings, including shops, cafes and offices.
Bickell, 64, is the latest business leader to call for rates reform. Critics say the levy unfairly targets traditional shops over online rivals.
The Mail’s Save Our High Streets campaign, which calls for a level playing field on rates for bricks-and-mortar stores and their online rivals, is backed by the likes of Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and the John Lewis Partnership.
Retailers have been hammered by soaring rates, unaffordable rents and plummeting footfall. Many firms also argue that town centre parking fees are putting off shoppers.
Bickell said the future success of the High Street would partly rely on making shopping ‘an interesting experience’.
But he also warned retailers were under pressure because of business rates, and the relief announced by Hammond in his recent Budget would not be enough for his tenants.
‘It helps a few of them but, I have to say, rateable values in the West End will probably put most people above the level that there is any support for,’ he said.
‘I think everybody is looking for some root-and-branch reform of business rates.
‘They have been out of date probably for 50 years but it is one of those cans that is always being kicked down the road.’
Shaftesbury, which owns some 15 acres of land in London, appeared to be avoiding the worst of the troubles to hit retail landlords.
Both its earnings and the value of its property portfolio have risen, bucking a trend that has seen rivals such as British Land and Landsec report falls in recent weeks.
Shaftesbury said its holdings had risen 3.8 per cent to nearly £4billion. Its income from properties rose 6.2 per cent to £93.8million.
Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘We want to support businesses, including High Street retailers struggling with high rents and changes in consumer habits, which is why we introduced reductions to business rates worth more than £13billion over the next five years.
‘At the Budget, we introduced a further £1.6billion package of support, including £900million of rates relief for small shops and cafes – where we think it is most needed.’