MPs raised concerns about the cost of business rates and its impact on small businesses during a debate on the subject on Wednesday June 13.

Speaking during the debate, Labour MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group Ruth George referenced ACS research which shows that one in three small businesses have seen an increase in their rates bills since the last revaluation in 2017.

She also raised concerns about the complex nature of the check, challenge, appeal system, and about the method used to calculate business rates, noting that the current turnover-based methodology unfairly targets forecourt retailers as well as retailers operating free-to-use cash machines.

St Ives MP Derek Thomas highlighted the inequalities in the rates system for businesses that otherwise appear very similar, referencing several examples from his constituency where neighbouring businesses of the same size were paying very different rates bills.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “For thousands of convenience stores, business rates are a significant cost that can impact decisions on investment and in some cases affect the overall viability of the business. This debate highlighted these issues, and the government needs to look closely at ways to incentivise investment through the rates system instead of penalising retailers who are trying to improve their business.”

During the debate, there was also broad consensus from MPs that something needs to be done to redress the balance between online retailers and their high street counterparts but that the exact way of achieving that balance was yet to be decided.