Call for 'root and branch' reform of business rates in wake of Beales crisis
PUBLISHED: 16:17 13 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:17 13 January 2020
An East Anglian MP has called for a replacement of business rates to save high streets after the future of department stores in two of his towns were thrown into doubt.
Peter Aldous labelled business rates as "crippling", and called for a "root and branch reform" of the system in the House of Commons on Monday, January 13.
His comments come amid fears of Beales, one of the oldest department stores in the UK, falling into administration.
With stores in Diss, Beccles and Wisbech - as well as owning the Palmers department stores in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, which became part of the Beales group in November 2018 - Beales could collapse if it fails to agree a sale in the coming days.
Mr Aldous, Waveney MP, said: "Beales has stores in both Lowestoft and Beccles in my constituency and it is clear that the crippling impact of business rates has been a significant contributory factor to the difficulties they are currently facing. I acknowledge the rates relief the Government have provided to smaller businesses but can I urge, in the review that is due to take place, that the Government not only consider root and branch reform, but look at replacement of rates as well."
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The company, which is fighting to save more than 1,000 across the country, put itself on the market last month after issuing a stark warning that it faced "exceptionally challenging times".
Responding to Mr Aldous, Jake Berry, Parliamentary under-secretary for housing, communities and local government, said: "In terms of the review, everything is going to be reviewed by my department and the Treasury.
"All ideas, from all sides of the house, on how we improve the health of our high streets more generally, will certainly be taken on board with that."
Mr Aldous' comments come as the Government were questioned on the effectiveness of their support for high streets, including by South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge.
Mr Berry said: "This Government is committed to supporting high streets and local leaders up and down the country, and we are doing that through our £1 billion Future High Streets Fund, which is part of our larger £3.6 billion Towns fund."
Lowestoft's Beales store closed in 2019, instead moving into the town's nearby Palmers store.