Rishi Sunak has vowed to cut business rates this autumn as his latest tax pledge in the Tory leadership race.
Speaking at a hustings in the North East town of Darlington last night, the former chancellor said that supporting high streets would be “top of my mind” when asked by an audience member whether he would cut taxes on struggling shops.
Mr Sunak committed to extending the current 50 per cent business rates reduction in his first Budget as Prime Minister, saying that small retailers are the “beating hearts of all our communities”.
>See also: How to challenge your business rates
“Particularly those businesses in the hospitality and the retail sector, those on our high streets and our town centres, that is the number one tax they talked to me about when I was chancellor,” Mr Sunak said.
“That’s why in the pandemic I did an enormous amount to help support that industry, because I know how important it is to our communities, the jobs that it provides.
“It’s why this year I cut business rates for those businesses by 50 per cent as chancellor, that’s the biggest tax cut on business rates outside of coronavirus that we’ve ever seen in this country.
“Because I know that it’s the number one thing that makes a difference this autumn in the budget we’ll do the same.”
Mr Sunak suggested the reduction would then be made permanent under his watch.
His rival Liz Truss has also pledged to reform business rates if she becomes prime minister.
Their pledges come as the Retail Jobs Alliance, a group of high street retailers, warned in a letter to the pair that companies are facing a 10 per cent increase in their business rates bill just from inflation alone.
‘Bizarre’ CBI suggestion
Meanwhile Ms Truss, the favourite to win the Conservative leadership contest, has rejected a call by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for a summit between her, prime minister Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak to “agree a common pledge” on tackling the cost of living crisis.
Tony Danker, CBI director-general, suggested this week that the severity of the economic crisis required “all hands at the pump”.
The CBI warned that businesses could not face a “summer of government inactivity” while the Conservative party chooses its new leader.
But Ms Truss pushed back, arguing that the Prime Minister and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi were “capable people, capable of making these decisions” on the economy.
She described the idea of a “kangaroo committee” made up of her, Rishi Sunak and the CBI as “bizarre”.
Yesterday it emerged that the government is considering blackouts for industry this winter to save energy supplies hammered by the war in Ukraine – a scenario reminiscent of the three-day week in the 1970s – which would be disastrous for productivity and the wider economy.