Timpson chair slams business rates as the high street’s “real problem”

28th February 2024 | Jack Oliver

The chair and owner of the Timpson Group has condemned high business rates as a “real problem” facing high street retailers.

Speaking on Tuesday at the House of Lords’ Built Environment Committee, Sir John Timpson said that business rates “continue to be a big problem”, describing them as a “barrier” preventing the regeneration of High Streets.

Timpson – who chaired a panel on high streets and town centres in 2018 – said the Government “doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing” regarding business rates.

“Either the Government doesn’t want to change business rates to be fair and have a level playing field with online shopping […] or it doesn’t know how to do it”, he said, “but it doesn’t talk to us either to find out whether there is a suitable answer.”

He added: “When I set out in business, there was a very clear rule that the rates tended to be a third of the rent, and that went on for years and years. Now we’ve got instances where the rates are considerably more than the rents […] – nothing to do with the actual premises – but to do with the level of inflation.”

Timpson was speaking to the Built Environment Committee as part of its inquiry into high streets, which launched last week.  The inquiry will look to understand how high streets can be regenerated and become more resilient and attractive, and consider the different uses of high streets by various communities and businesses, and what is needed for them to flourish.

This cross-party committee was appointed in 2021 to consider housing, planning, transport and infrastructure, and is chaired by Lord Moylan.

In last year’s Autumn Statement, the chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the government will freeze the small business multiplier for a further year. However, he faced calls to extend business rates relief to medium-sized and larger businesses.


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