Imagine walking down your favourite high street only to find your go-to café or that quirky little shop you love shuttered for good. That's the kind of crisis brewing in the hospitality, retail, and leisure sectors.
Here's the scoop: Several big names in these industries, including the British Retail Consortium, UKHospitality, and others, are urgently calling on Jeremy Hunt, the big cheese in charge of the UK's finances, to hit the pause button on business rates hikes. They're worried that if he doesn't, it could spell disaster – think job losses, closed businesses, and ghost-town vibes on our high streets.
Last year, Hunt threw a lifeline to these struggling sectors with a cool £13.6 billion support package. It was a game-changer, freezing business rates and upping discounts for businesses reeling from the pandemic. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Business rates are set to climb again in April, which could mean an extra £480 million for retailers and £234 million for hospitality businesses to fork out. Ouch!
Kate Nicholls, the top boss at UKHospitality, puts it bluntly: "No more freezes or relief, and we're looking at price hikes, reduced hours, or even businesses closing down for good." It's a stark warning that's hard to ignore.
As we write this, the Treasury is dotting the i's and crossing the t's on their autumn statement. There's a buzz that larger retailers might not get the freeze they're hoping for despite the risk of job cuts and soaring prices. The word on the street is that business rate bills for these big players could jump by 6.7% come spring.
Helen Dickinson from the BRC paints a grim picture: Retailers facing a massive £480 million annual increase in business rates might have no choice but to up their prices and hold back on sprucing up our town centres. She's calling on the chancellor to freeze business rates and give our local communities a chance to bounce back.
So, what do you think? Should the chancellor freeze these rates and give these sectors a breather, or is there another solution? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!