From independent shopkeepers to the mighty Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses, business voices are urging the government to extend business rates relief to save the high street.
This year's budget takes place on Wednesday, March 3. Retailers, publicans and restauranteurs, the majority of whom have spent 2021 with locked doors, are urging chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the relief scheme, which is due to come to an end on March 31.
Longer-term, they are hoping to see reform of the system, which penalises bricks and mortar businesses over web-based retailers.
Ending business rates relief in April would cost small businesses £13 bn, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, which is also lobbying to have the business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure firms extended for another year.
"With so many shops, restaurants and pubs still closed due to the latest lockdown, the business community is lobbying the government to provide more rates relief," said Andrew Kilpatrick of commercial property agency Kilpatrick & Co.
"Business rates are obviously on the Government’s agenda for the budget as in a recent instruction to local billing authorities they have asked them to hold off issuing business rates bills for 2021/22 until after the budget to avoid having to reissue rates demands, so there is hope that some further relief may be forthcoming.
"With some 15.4 million sq ft of empty retail space added to already significant numbers of vacant shops as a result of the Debenhams and Arcadia closures, help for landlords with the burden of empty property rates is also sought as the current three months void rates relief is a drop in the ocean when it can take many more months to relet such shop properties.”
Meanwhile, the Valuation Office Agency is sending out rental information request forms to all businesses to assist in the preparation of the 2023 business rates revaluation.
Ratepayers will receive a letter and need to go online and submit their up-to-date tenancy details.