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Government faces calls to cut business rates to keep Red Wall voters on side

·2-min read

Business rates should be slashed to maintain Government support from Red Wall voters in the north of England, a senior Tory MP has said.

Jake Berry, who chairs the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, has said the Government “risks losing support” in northern towns which the party won in the 2019 general election if it does not make the cut.

His call to Government comes as polling reveals 74% of voters in the Red Wall back proposals to cut the tax paid by shops in order to make it easier for local businesses to remain open.

“The public are clear: the burden of tax on bricks-and-mortar retail is too high,” Mr Berry said.

“Without a cut in business rates at the Budget we risk losing support in our most marginal seats, including in the north and the Midlands.

“Cutting rates would be a huge boost to our local communities and would show quick delivery of the central mission of this Government: levelling up.”

A Deltapoll poll of 1,598 adults published on Tuesday found that 66% of people in the UK back a tax cut for shops with support increasing to 74% for voters in those seats won by the Conservatives at the 2019 election.

The poll also found 62% agree that there are more empty or closed shops in their local area than before the pandemic, with only 10% disagreeing.

Overall people said they would be willing to pay more for their online shopping deliveries from Amazon and other retailers if physical shops could then benefit from a lower tax rate – with 35% in favour versus 25% against.

The Government is preparing to release the findings of its fundamental review of business rates this autumn, which could change the amount that businesses pay in tax.

In September, the British Retail Consortium warned that four out of five retailers would likely close stores without a reduction in the level of rates they pay.

Cabinet meeting
Esther McVey and Jake Berry, two Conservative MPs who have called for business rates to be cut (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Esther McVey MP, chair of the Blue Collar Conservatives, joined calls for business rates to be cut.

The MP for Tatton said: “The burden of tax on bricks and mortar retail is too high, and the best single policy to revive our high streets would be to cut business rates. Levelling up must include ensuring taxes come down.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves promised she would scrap business rates altogether if Labour were in Government, and replace it with a different system of taxation.

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