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John Longworth director general of the British Chambers of Commerce

Chambers call on chancellor to freeze business rates

British Chambers of Commerce has called on the government to freeze business rates, ahead of the autumn statement on Thursday, December 5.

The business group is urging the government to conduct an extensive review and completely reform the business rates system by 2015, with a new, more responsive and transparent system enacted early in the next parliament.

In its submission, which was published yesterday (Sunday), the BCC called for the chancellor to propose a two-year freeze, which would cost the treasury around £1.7bn, equivalent to 0.1 percent of total government spending.

Business rates are raised in line with September’s retail prices index, which means companies are likely to face a 3.2 percent increase next spring, costing them an extra £900m.

Last April’s 2.6 per cent rise followed a 5.6 per cent increase in 2012 and 4.6 per cent in 2011.

The BCC described the levy – the highest business rates bill in Europe – as “an iniquitous tax that aggravates already uncertain business cash flow and imposes hefty new costs. Business rates are fixed no matter the stage of the economic cycle, company performance or ability to pay.”

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “This is a tax that hits companies of all sizes long before they a make profit, and acts as a drag on business growth and investment.

“Firms across the UK have been crying out for relief from these burdensome taxes for years, but so far their pleas have been ignored.”

The BCC said that the cost to the treasury would be more than offset by the investment made by businesses into driving economic growth.