The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the findings of a new report published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on the future of high streets and town centres.

The report, which is the result of an inquiry launched last year to which ACS submitted written evidence and was on a panel interviewed by the committee, states that “high street retailers are paying more than their fair share of tax, while online retailers are not contributing enough”.

The report references ACS’ recommendation to apply a different rating methodology for online businesses, such as turnover, within the existing business rates framework. The committee also included in their report ACS’ recommendation for the rating system to incentivise investment rather than discourage it through higher rates bills.

The inquiry’s recommendations on business rates include calls for the Government to consider:

  • introducing a specific ratings methodology for the warehouses of online retailers which is based on turnover above a certain threshold;
  • introducing a 12-month holiday for high street retailers from rates increases which result from investments to improvements in property; and
  • a reduction in the business rates for retailers in high streets and town centres, which would have the additional effect of balancing competition from out-of-town shopping centres.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome this report, which highlights some of the key issues facing high streets in the future and we’re pleased that the findings of the inquiry echo our concerns on business rates. The rates system still acts as a barrier to investment, with retailers in fear of improving their stores because of the increase in rates bills that follows. We urge the Government to act on the recommendations of this report and consider all available options to help retailers invest.”