South West commercial property experts have welcomed Government moves to help struggling High Streets  – but  repeated calls for an immediate overhaul of  the business rates system.

Colliers International ratings expert Ben Batchelor-Wylam said this week’s announcement of a £415 million cash injection to back business, boost high streets and create jobs was good news for smaller businesses and high street retailers – but didn’t address the principal problem of cripplingly high business rates.

He said: “The real issue is the postponement of the 2015 revaluation to 2017 and the consequential delay in redistributing rating burden more evenly.

“It would have cost the Government around £50 million to complete the 2015 Rating Revaluation -  a fraction of the £415 million announced this week.
“That would have produced far more tangible benefits for our hard-pressed High Streets.”

Ben – one of the city’s leading authorities on business rates – is based at Colliers International’s Broad Quay HQ and has been closely involved with Bristol retailers offering free advice sessions on rates issues.

He said sky-high business rates were a   ‘make or break’ issue.

“There is a great deal of   uncertainty regarding the overall direction of travel in terms of non-domestic rates. Retailers and businesses want to know whether there will be   a root and branch review after 2017 or just further refinements at the margins.”

Community Secretary Eric Pickles’ announcement included a £300 million package to give 300,000 small retail firms £1,000 off their next tax bill, along with £100 million to support critical business infrastructure in enterprise zones and a further £15 million to establish new university enterprise zones in eight main UK cities.

Ben Batchelor-Wylam concluded: “Any contribution to our struggling high street retailers should be welcomed, but this announcement does little to address the fundamental issues impacting occupiers.

“New funding mechanisms are needed to support the long-term vision and major repositioning of our town centres in order to provide a much broader range of functions to service local communities in the decades ahead.”