There are continuing suggestions from government sources that small businesses, especially those embracing ‘hospitality’, will be given concessions on their business rates liability in the March Budget.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), commented, “The number of independent forecourt operators has collapsed by a staggering 70 per cent since 2000 and the closure trend continues though at a lower rate of about 150 sites per year. In order to survive, many owners have incorporated convenience retailing and fast food franchises such as Subway, Starbucks, Greggs, Burger King, KFC and Costa Coffee on their forecourt sites. This certainly represents a significant presence in the hospitality market.”
When the previous chancellor announced a rates relief package for the high street retailers in 2014/15 and 2015/16, PRA sought and obtained immediate agreement from the financial secretary, Vicky Morgan MP, that forecourts would be included.
Madderson added, “We ask that the chancellor and secretary of state for Communities & Local Government again help our small retailers by including them in any proposed rates concessions as ‘to freeze them out’ would be seriously anti-competitive.
“In the longer term, we would welcome a full examination of the Business Rates methodology as our forecourt shops remain rated on the basis of turnover (equivalent to a performance tax as sales increase from investment and productivity) whereas standalone convenience shops are rated on the sales area (tax is fixed unless the sales area increases).
“This is hugely anti-competitive where our members struggle to compete on a level playing field with major national retailers. This deeply unfair methodology just has to change.”