ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) is urging Chancellor George Osborne to take action in the Budget to stop the 5.6% increase in business rates, with the aid of new research conducted among local shop owners across the country. The polling reveals:

* 42% of retailers plan to increase product prices, reduce staff hours or delay planned business investments as a direct result of the business rates increase.
* 45% of retailers see action to reduce business rates as one of the top two priorities for the Chancellor. These figures are higher in the north of the country (49%) where high streets are generally suffering higher vacancy rates.
* 37% of retailers believe that business rate increases are obstructing growth in their business.

This evidence has been submitted to the Chancellor by ACS in its Budget Submission, in which it calls for the Chancellor to cap the rate rise at 2% in line with Government inflation targets.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers are operating in the real economy, serving every village, estate and high street in the country, and if they are saying that a 5.6% business rates increase will stunt job creation and thwart growth, the Chancellor must listen.  The action the Chancellor takes on business rates will be a litmus test of the Government’s commitment to removing barriers to growth for businesses.

“Investment in staff and low prices for consumers is vitally important to retailers seeking to remain competitive in a tough trading environment and so any suggestion that they would have to act on these shows just how damaging the rates increase is likely to be.”

ACS research also shed light on tough trading conditions for local shops, revealing that only:

* 18% report an increase in sales over the past three months;
* 24% have plans to invest in or grow their business in the year ahead;
* 13% have plans to increase jobs in the year ahead.

ACS’ campaign for action on business rates has received support from a range of business organisations including, the British Property Federation, the British Council of Shopping Centres, the British Independent Retailers Association and the Forum of Private Business.