M&S CEO Steve Rowe warns of further job losses if business rates are not overhauled

  • M&S boss Steve Rowe says “seismic upheaval” caused by the pandemic would lead to more job losses unless business rates are reformed
  • He called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to increase corporation tax to help overhaul business rates
  • His comments come after the Treasury delayed the final report on its review of business rates until autumn

By guest author Elias Jahshan from Retail Gazette

Steve Rowe (caption courtesy by Retail Gazette

Marks & Spencer Chief Executive Steve Rowe has warned that thousands more job losses would be on the horizon if the government does not overhaul the business rates regime.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Rowe said the “seismic upheaval” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic would lead to doom and gloom on the high street unless the “unbearable yoke” of business rates undergoes a “fundamental review”.

The M&S boss also urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to increase corporation tax to help overhaul business rates.

An increase in corporation tax is planned and set to be confirmed in upcoming Budget on March 3.

Rowe’s comments come after the Treasury delayed the final report on its review of business rates until autumn, citing better economic certainty by that time.

The major review of the business rates system was first called by Sunak at last year’s Budget, with a call for evidence launched in July.

Responses from the call are now “being considered” by the UK Government, with plans for an interim report to be released on March 23.

Retail, hospitality and leisure operators are currently benefiting from a business rates holiday for the current financial year, which will end on March 31.

However, bosses have called for the GBP 11 billion tax break to be extended for another year after the industry was battered by enforced closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Retail bosses, such as Rowe and Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson, have also been vocal in urging the Chancellor to bring about urgent reform to the business rates system.

“The ever-increasing burden of rates has become an unbearable yoke around the neck of thousands of shopkeepers and their communities,” Rowe told the Daily Mail.

“Our sector faces the fight of its life and the government needs to act on its forthcoming review on rates.

“The fairest way to tax is based on profit. By our calculations, a minimal increase in corporation tax would fund our proposed reduction for all ratepayers.”

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