Jessica Fino 21 Feb 2017 03:27pm

Chancellor "listening" to concerns over business rates reforms

Philip Hammond has told Conservative MPs he is “listening” to their concerns over the planned business rates reforms

The chancellor said during a meeting on Monday night that he was “open to listening to the issues of the hardest hit” by the new reforms, which come into effect in April.

His comments follow recent criticism over the government’s plans to change the business rates. Over the weekend, Sainsbury’s CEO said that “as it stands, we could see high streets face serious challenges and ultimately more closures”.

It was revealed last week that the business rates bill for offices in the City would rise by £1.4bn over the next five years, according to research from property specialist CVS.

Moreover, 13 business groups have sent a join letter to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, challenging the business rates reforms. The list of signatories included the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the British Retail Consortium.

Hammond’s comments were also the first hint that he could ease the reform during his Budget announcement next month.

In an attempt to avoid a rebellion within the party, Sajid Javid, communities secretary, and David Gauke, Treasury minister, wrote to MPs saying that there had been “a “relentless campaign of distortions and half-truths” against the reforms.

The ministers said that the revaluation was a “vital step in keeping the business rates system fair, transparent and accurate”.

Gauke also claimed that the business rates reform would mean that 600,000 businesses would not pay rates at all.