Convenience store retailers from across the UK gathered in Westminster to call on Government to reform the system of business rates.

The Association of Convenience Stores has called for the following measures to make the business rates system fairer at their annual political conference:

• Legislating to introduce a permanent 2% cap on annual increases in business rates and freeze rates for small businesses for at least two years.

• Allow more businesses to qualify for the small business rate by increasing the threshold for qualification from £18,000 to £50,000 rateable value.

• Increase the frequency of revaluations undertaken by the Valuation Office Agency to at least once every three years

• Promote a greater use of discretionary rate relief in supporting high streets.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It is time for Government to accept that it cannot increase the revenue it takes from businesses through property tax year after year without choking off the investment we need in our high streets, parades and other local centres. Only a fundamental change in approach will work. In our submission to the Treasury we have set out immediate practical steps to cement the positive short-term measures already taken to reduce the burden of rates on retailers.”

The ACS proposals have received the backing of All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group chairman Simon Danczuk MP, who spoke at the conference saying: "Cancelling a much needed revaluation has ensured that throughout this parliament many businesses have had to trade in difficult conditions while being burdened by unfair business rates that bear no relation to property values.

“This tax is holding back the recovery and stifling entrepreneurialism and it desperately needs reform. Whenever we debate the future of Britain’s high streets, business rates remain the elephant in the room. I hope the Chancellor will act accordingly and make reforming this tax a priority in his Autumn Statement."

The ACS Heart of the Community Conference took place at Church House Conference Centre on 21st October, speakers at the event included business minister Nick Boles, Labour shadow minister Steve Reed, and MPs Gerald Howarth and Lorely Burt.