The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the chancellor to take immediate and decisive action to postpone increases in business rates planned for next year.

ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan said: “Retailers are facing a dramatic increase in their rate bill in both 2009 and 2010. Given the exceptional economic times, now is the time to act.”

The organisation said it had written to Alistair Darling, adding the voice of over 33,000 local shops to the growing call for action on business rates. It explained: "Business rates increase annually linked to inflation, and specifically this is the rate of inflation based on the Retail Price Index in September of the previous year – in September 2008 the rate of RPI inflation was 5%, although since then the reduction has been dramatic, down to 4.2% in October. The ACS has asked the chancellor to freeze rates at 2008 levels and to not apply any increase."

Brennan added that freezing business rates would provide a boost to tens of thousands of retail businesses and provide exactly the right kind of stimulus. He warned: "Failure to take action will mean a substantial additional burden on retailers and in the current market place could push businesses over the edge.”

The ACS said it was also calling for a rethink on applying the outcome of the 2010 revaluation which would provide new assessments of rateable value based on commercial rents in April 2008. Brennan added: “The 2010 revaluation will be based on figures that were assessed at the very top of the property market, given the subsequent dramatic declines it is unrealistic and dangerous to push ahead and impose these new rates on businesses. There is time for a rethink and we are urging the chancellor to take it.”

The chancellor will be outlining Government plans in the pre-Budget Report on November 24th.