Businesses waiting for government report

Commercial Road precinct and shops Picture: C�sar Moreno Huerta
Commercial Road precinct and shops Picture: C�sar Moreno Huerta
James Crook

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Local businesses will find out next month if the government will help ease the burden of business rates.

As in the rest of the country, businesses in and around Portsmouth have suffered from business rates and are concerned with the future health of high streets, such as Commercial Road.

The latest figures uncovered by the British Retail Consortium show that the retail industry accounts for nearly 11,000 jobs across Portsmouth Unitary Authority and pays over £21m in business rates.

Local retailers, from the family-owned to national chains, already face difficult decisions about the future of their shops because of these disproportionally high bills.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said:

Although the government plans to allow local authorities from 2020 to lower their rates bill, it’s difficult to see how the burden will come down anytime soon.

For an industry that is undergoing profound structural change and that is determined to keep consumer prices down, but also facing these additional costs of doing business, then the pressure to hold back investment and possibly close shops is growing.

‘We have an opportunity to turn things around. After 18 months of looking at the current rates system, the government should next month set out its vision for a modern, sustainable and transparent system, rebalancing its tax take away from property while also capping the national rate immediately to prevent further closures on our high streets.

‘By going beyond plans to devolve rates through fundamentally reforming the business rates system the government can unleash investment, bringing jobs and expanding businesses in places like Portsmouth.’