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05 Mar 2021 | 07:02

Frasers Group to review estate after 'worthless' rates relief Budget package

(Sharecast News) - Mike Ashley's Frasers Group called an extension to business rates relief a "near worthless" package that would stop it taking over former Debenhams stores and force a review of its own estate.

Frasers said the £2m rates cap on businesses from July 2021 to March 2022 to help hard-hit retailers through the Covid-19 crisis, "makes it a near worthless support package for large retailers". The measure was unveiled by Finance Minister Rishi Sunak in his Budget on Wednesday.

"For Frasers Group this cap will make it nearly impossible to take on ex-Debenhams sites with the inherent jobs created. It will also mean we need to review our entire portfolio to ascertain stores that are unviable due to unrealistic business rates."

The company said many retailers would have expected suitable relief "until structural reform is implemented", adding that firms "should pay the fair amount of rates in line with realistic rateable values, but instead we continue to have an unwieldy, overly complex, and out of date business rates regime".

Debenhams brand and website were bought by fast fashion e-tailer Boohoo for £55m in January, leaving the chain's remaining 118 High Street in limbo.

Sunak extended until July a business rates exemption for hospitality businesses including restaurants and pubs have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic

The extension will be followed by a further six-month period where rates will be discounted to one third of the normal charge, up to a maximum of £2m for closed businesses.

Tax and spending elements of Sunak's plans were severely criticised on Thursday by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies as undeliverable.

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