Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt defends Government’s record on high streets

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PENNY MORDAUNT has defended the government’s stance on the controversial business rates system.

The Conservative MP for Portsmouth North is also High Streets minister and says the government’s decision to delay the review of business rates until 2017 was of benefit to hundreds of thousands of businesses.

She said: ‘This government’s long-term economic plan is supporting business, local shops and the high street with lower taxes, despite the need to pay off the deficit left by the last administration.

‘We have already taken targeted action, including providing over £1bn of business rates support, introducing a new £1,000 retail discount, and doubling small business rate relief – helping an estimated half a million small firms.

‘We have also made small business relief easier to claim, capped the increase in rates below inflation this year, and our reoccupation discount means occupiers of previously empty properties get 50 per cent off for 18 months.

‘Looking forward, our business rates review will look at improving the longer-term administration involved in the rates so the system is simple, fair and predictable for ratepayers.

‘A 2015 rating revaluation would have meant soaring bills for local firms, with almost three times as many businesses including many on high streets seeing their bills shoot up.’

But business groups still think the government can do much more to help.

Alan Hawkins, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) said: ‘The government has made a number of small, temporary gestures on business rates and that just goes to show that it recognises there’s a real problem to solve – otherwise it would not have made them.

‘What is needed in the run-up to the general election is real commitment to fundamental change in the way the tax works from the political parties – and a real debate on options which can be put in place without further delay.’