Business leaders are urging Chancellor Philip Hammond to ‘fundamentally reform’ business rates to avert a crisis in the high street and the potential death of the live music scene.

According to a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) the spike in consumer spending seen in the run-up to Christmas has stopped, with the result that non-food sales are falling for the first time since November 2011.

Non-food sales were 0.2 per cent lower in the three months to February than in the same period a year before and 0.4 per cent lower once allowance was made for the expansion of retailers’ floorspace over the past year. In addition, there was a fall of more than four per cent in private car sales in February.

According to a spokeswoman for the BRC, the persistent weak sales performance of several non-food categories points to an “undeniable trend of cautious spending on non-essential items”.

The group is therefore hoping to see a commitment from the Government to lay a path to a truly sustainable business rates system that will give retailers the flexibility they need to invest and support their local communities, otherwise a hike in the tax could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The UK’s live music scene could also be harmed by the changes to the business rates, with a new report finding that the rateable value for some music venues will rise by up to 55 per cent.

A study conducted by the universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle and Glasgow has found that the proposed increases in rateable values will have a significant impact on live music that already operate on very thin margins.

The change in business rates payments due to come into effect next month is because of the revaluation of property in the UK. This is supposed to happen every five years but was delayed for two years in 2015.

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