Esther McVey, the former work and pensions secretary and founder of the Blue Collar Conservative movement, has backed the Express Save Our High Streets campaign and warned that radical action will be needed once the disease is brought under control.
The issue came up in Ms McVey’s latest Blue Collar podcast aimed at “bringing people together” during the crisis and raising issues which are hitting working class communities across the country.
The podcast included a conversation with Mansfield MP Ben Bradley and former Apprentice finalist Frances Bishop who owns the Pud Store kidswear chain.
Ms Bishop said: “I actually cried [with relief] when I heard the Chancellor announce he was giving everybody a business rates holiday for 12 months.
“We have really big business rates and I have been quite vocal about that in the past, not just because of coronavirus.
“If the government could find another way to tax retailers or hospitality businesses as opposed to business rates which I think is very outdated now, then it might end up with the government getting more revenue but it would give retailers, high streets and communities a chance to rebuild again.”
She pointed out that each month her business rates cost almost £5,000 – £3,000 in Sheffield £1,000 in Mansfield, £600 in Newark and £300 in Doncaster.
She said: “That’s a lot of money and if we could plough that back into the business we could employ more people, invest more in the infrastructure side of the business to allow us withstand more and adapt and evolve.
“This [coronavirus] business rates measure has been a lifeline and allowed us to invest for the future and I hope this is the catalyst the government needs that we can reform business rates and do it in a fairer way.”
Ms McVey, the MP for Tatton, said that the Government now needs to look at abolishing business rates and replace it with a sales tax which could bring in online companies like Amazon who currently pay very little tax.
She said: “If there is one thing that the coronavirus crisis has highlighted for the economy it is that getting rid of business rates is essential. It’s an out of date tax that needs modernising so that it falls fairly on all businesses and doesn’t destroy the high street.”