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If Debenhams Is Giving Local Authorities an Ultimatum- It’s Targeting the Wrong Culprit says Colliers

01 03 20 Debenhams rating

Rumours that Debenhams may be set to give councils an ultimatum in a bid to secure business rates cuts (as reported by Sky News) or it will shut stores in particular areas, could well misfire as the beleaguered department store would be aiming for the wrong target, says John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers International.

“Whilst we have sympathy for Debenhams, as we do for any other retailer paying an effective 50% tax, it’s important to remember that in any discussion about business rates:

  • If the Local Authority allows Debenhams off its rates bill- it would have to let other retailers off too which would be unsustainable in the current marketplace.
  • Even if the Local Authority wanted to do this, this would breach State Aid Rules, which only allows a limited amount of help to a company of a certain size.
  • Local Government would not be able to afford to give this sort of rates reduction given the state of local finances.
  • The billing authority is a collection agency and the 50% multiplier which is the cause of many retailers’ financial woes is set by Central Government. The local authorities do not set business rates.

Webber continued, “Debenhams would be better to lobby the Government to reform the system, reduce the multiplier to a manageable tax, abolish phased downwards transition following any Revaluation and broaden the burden of this tax from the retail sector.”

“Instead of darkening the doors of town halls up and down the country they should be knocking on the door of Number 10 where the magic money tree seems to be alive and kicking.” 

Debenham is reported to have plans to close 28 more shops by 2022, leaving about 100 open. It has already closed 22.

Debenhams' rates bill is reported to be around £70 million following a number of store closures in the past year.  



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John Webber

Head of Rating



I have over 35 years’ experience in the rating industry and lead a 135 plus rating team at Colliers.  When I took over responsibility for the team in 2005, it consisted of only a dozen people and has now grown into one of the leading rating advisory teams in the country.  I am a member of Colliers' UK Management Executive as well as sitting on the company’s Balance in Business Committee. 

I am regularly called upon by the national media to give my views on a range of business rates issues and I am involved in lobbying MPs/ministers and senior civil servants on business rates matters.

I started my career in the Valuation Office Agency in Kidderminster.  I joined Gerald Eve in 2000 where I spent 10 years before moving to Gooch Webster (now Colliers). I sit on the National Retail Panel of Rating Surveyors Association which provides guidance on how the RSA town committees work with the VOA and valuation matters.  I have also held the postion as Chair of the RICS Rating Diploma Committee having passed the prestigious qualification in 2014. I currently sit on the Rating Surveyors Association National Committee .

Along with Philip Harrison we founded 'Accurates' in 2007, the Collier's Compliance and Audit team, which although forms an integral part of the Rating team is now a leading brand in its own right.

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Hannah Zitren

Associate Director

Marketing & Communications


I am responsible for media relations and generating coverage in top tier broadcast and print media. I work across a range of Colliers’ UK & Pan-EMEA business lines advising on their strategic and tactical PR needs.

My role includes:

·         Developing and executing PR plans for the various business lines to help promote their key messages across all aspects of the media - print, broadcast and social.

·          Media evaluation and reporting objectives, targets and successes across the business.

·         Reputation management and crisis management.

·         Media training.

·         Media engagement: setting up meetings with top tier media and various internal spokespeople to continuously expand and build a presence with property and vertical media network.

·         Consistently delivering service excellence, meeting with business heads of a regular basis and trying to influence the research as much as possible to ensure our content has a strong enough news hook.

·         Key campaigns that I work on include MIPIM; MAPIC; REVO; Midsummer Retail Report; IHIF; Cities of Influence in addition to a host of all alternative property sector research reports.

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