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‘It’s not too late to make the case for action on business rates’

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls

Kate Nicholls

I wrote in Propel’s Friday Opinion today why it’s not too late to write to your MP and make the case for action on business rates in the Autumn Statement.

Here’s my full piece:

Next Wednesday’s Autumn Statement is potentially a make-or-break event for the UK’s hospitality sector. The prospects for thousands of businesses will be outlined and, put simply, it could be a moment that means survival or catastrophe for many in the sector.

The Office for National Statistics has confirmed the rate of inflation has fallen to 4.6%, which is, of course, encouraging to see; yet, it will count for little if the Chancellor of the Exchequer fails to take action at the Autumn Statement to avert the looming business rates bill facing hospitality and provide the requisite level of financial support.

Last week, we submitted a letter to the Chancellor – signed by more than 230 business leaders and celebrity chefs, including Tom Kerridge, Monica Galetti and Tom Aikens – outlining the importance of the upcoming Autumn Statement and what is required from it to ensure the sector can thrive and not continue its struggle merely to survive.

Our most pressing ask is for action on business rates and ensuring that the planned end to relief and increase in the multiplier in April next year are scrapped.

As it stands, the sector faces a staggering £1bn tax hike in April 2024 – which equates to approximately £10,000 per individual venue nationwide.

£630mCost of losing business rates relief

£234mScale of inflation-linked rise

Immediate impact

We already know from our members that the direct impact of that will be almost two-thirds putting up their prices, as they simply cannot absorb any additional costs. A recent survey of members revealed that 61% would raise prices if business rates bills rise in April. It also showed that 66% would reduce investment, 61% would reduce staffing levels, 42% would reduce opening hours and 22% would close sites.

We have urged the Chancellor to freeze the business rates multiplier, extend the 75% hospitality relief and increase the cap to at least £2m. With energy prices remaining stubbornly high and an anticipated hike in the National Living Wage, including an extension to those aged 21 and above, this support is vital. Business rates support can cushion the sector from these costs while allowing us to invest – in our businesses, our people and our communities.

With business rates representing the single-most immediate pressure facing the sector, it’s right that hospitality is galvanizing around support for action to avert drastic cost rises in April.

Of course, we are still calling for more structural reform that will benefit the sector in the long-term. A lower rate of VAT for hospitality, and reform of both the apprenticeship levy and business rates is essential – with the latter in need of a complete overhaul – and we’re hoping that the Chancellor will address these issues in his statement.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, London

Make the case

There is still plenty of time for you to support our asks and make it clear to your MP that action is needed. By writing to your local MP, voicing your support for our campaign and showing the strength of feeling within hospitality, we can absolutely make a difference. The louder we beat the drum, the clearer the message – it’s essential that the sector is recognised and the requisite support is put in place.

We’ve made this process as easy as possible, simply visit this link and enter your postcode to bring up a template letter addressed to your MP. All you need to do then is fill in your details and click send, and you will have added your voice to the cause. So far, we’ve had more than 700 businesses submit letters to their MP and we want to continue flooding inboxes in the run up to the Autumn Statement to make sure our message is heard.

Time for action

Without urgent Government action the hospitality sector will be unable to do what it does best – serve customers, deliver millions of jobs around the country and contribute to the UK’s economic and social fibre.

Without action from the Chancellor we will see venue closures, job losses and cancelled investment that will harm our high streets and communities in every part of the country.

It is imperative that the Chancellor listens to our collective calls for support and takes clear action at the Autumn Statement to extend the current relief measures for a further year and protect the vital community assets that make up the UK’s vibrant hospitality sector. Hospitality is at the heart of our communities and it’s essential we do all we can to protect businesses in the sector and the value they bring, from driving economic growth to creating jobs.

Please do join us and show your support by signing and submitting our letter to your local MP today.

Join us in calling for action by writing to your MP

Increase the pressure on the Government to take action on business rates, by using our ‘Write to your MP’ tool – either as your own business or by sharing with your franchisees, tenants, lessees or peers.

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