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Conservative Manifesto promises to ease business rates for high street retailers

Chloe Burney
11 June 2024

Today, the Conservatives published their Manifesto detailing plans for the UK ahead of the general election on 4 July. This follows the Liberal Democrats unveiling their manifesto yesterday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and we are making the UK the best place in the world to start or grow a business. We have great foundations: world-class talent, an internationally envied legal system and a business-friendly regulatory environment.

"We are supporting firms with a business rates support package worth £4.3 billion over the next five years to support small businesses and the high street."

This would include easing business rates for high street, leisure and hospitality businesses by increasing the multiplier on distribution warehouses that support online shopping and improving access to finance for SMEs.

Sunak added: "Our commitment to levelling up means giving everyone the opportunity to stay local and go far."

The parties plans are to "create more freeports and business rates retention zones" with an application round at the start of the next parliament.

Councils would get to keep business rates growth for 25 years to invest in infrastructure and local industries. However, the manifesto does not say which areas will be able to access this.

As for tackling crime, the Conservative Party pledged to recruit 8,000 more full-time, fully warranted police officers. This would ensure a new police officer would be added to every neighbourhood. In addition, to cut cut anti-social behaviour in town centres, Conservatives promised to introduce Hotspot Policing.

Dee Corsi, CEO of New West End Company, said: "We welcome Conservative plans to reform the rigid planning system, grant extra police powers to deal with anti-social behaviour and, importantly, introduce tougher sentencing for those who assault retail workers.

"However, this manifesto is a missed opportunity to show a serious commitment to business growth. The idea of increasing business rate multipliers on distribution warehouses ignores the fact that modern retailers sell both online and in-store. This, compounded with the decision to not reintroduce tax-free shopping, would further squeeze UK business. We hope that any future government will fundamentally reform the rates system that continues to place a financial burden on businesses large and small."

Rishi Sunak concluded that the Conservatives "are the only party in this election with the big ideas to make our country a better place to live."

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