Rise in empty shops shows need for business rates reform, say small firms

Press Releases 16 Jan 2020

FSB responds to new figures from the BBC local shared data unit.

Responding to new figures from the BBC Data Unit showing that £1 billion in empty premises business rates relief is applied in England and Wales each year, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said:

“Local authorities are set to rake in £25 billion from business rates this year, a figure which has grown substantially of late, and is set to keep growing

“As business rates hikes contribute to closures on our high streets in increasing numbers, it would add insult to injury to then remove a relief for empty units. Fundamentally, without the current business rates system, we’d have far fewer empty shops on our high streets – and less of a need for empty premises relief.

“Instead, we should be scaling back a tax that has materially damaged firms all over the country, and recalibrating business rates to encourage a mixture of thriving small businesses on diverse high streets, which are at the heart of communities. 

“The government has promised a wholesale review of business rates, and it can’t come soon enough. Simplifying this outdated system and taking more of the small firms that need support most out of it must be the priority. Policymakers need to remember that it’s these businesses that inject competition and diversity into our business landscape.  

“It’s been encouraging to see the incoming administration double down on its commitment to increase the Retail Discount on rates to 50 per cent, and make it available to more types of businesses. Targeted relief like this should be the focus, rather than driving small firms out of communities they want to serve.”  


Note to Editors
1) £25 billion figure sourced from MHCLG, ‘National non-domestic rates to be collected by local authorities in England 2019-20’.   
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About FSB

As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.

FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.

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