High streets need British Retail Consortium’s radical retail reform, says Eversheds’ Batham

James Batham, retail expert and partner at Eversheds, has said that the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) upcoming recommendations for overhauling business rates will be welcomed by retailers.

The BRC is expected to publish its recommendations for the overhaul of the business rates system following the review undertaken by John Rogers, Sainsbury’s chief financial officer.

It is widely expected that three radical proposals will be made by the BRC, including abolition of the current system and replacing it with other taxes, such as an increase in VAT.

Batham said that, given the government’s pledge to reform business rates by 2017, it will be interesting to see how the proposals will be received by Westminster, particularly bearing in mind that the government’s own review of the system suggests that it anticipates making less radical changes.

He added: ‘It is feared that the government’s review won’t go far enough in addressing the fundamental problems affecting high-street retailers, such as the decrease in footfall, the increase in e-commerce and the outdated link between retail prices index [RPI] and business rates.

‘The BRC proposals, however, are expected to address such problems. No doubt retailers will be hoping that the government will take note of the BRC’s recommendations and embrace the need for radical change as opposed to just “tinkering” round the edges of the business rates problem.’