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Government must shoulder some blame for BHS collapse say property experts

Published 10/05/2016

BHS collapsed in April
BHS collapsed in April

The Government must shoulder part of the blame for the collapse of BHS after delaying a decision to review business rates in 2015, according to property experts.

Numbers crunched by estate agent Colliers show that the department store chain could have saved over £15 million per year, or £75 million over five years, had a critical revaluation gone ahead last year.

Under the current system, business rates are recalculated every five years, with the last revaluation taking place in 2010. Had it not been postponed by the Government in 2015, Colliers said it would have seen thousands of retailers nationwide, including 90% of BHS stores, receive a reduction in their business rates bill. BHS' current business rates bill stands at £44 million per year.

John Webber, head of rating at Colliers, said: "The Government decision to delay the business rates revaluation in 2015 certainly had an impact on BHS. It's hard to know whether it was one of the final nails in the coffin, but clearly a £75 million saving is a significant amount of money.

"Given that almost every other retail centre in the UK is predicted to have a drop in business rates, some respite was on the horizon for BHS. The fact remains that the current business rates regime has done nothing to stimulate healthy high streets."

BHS collapsed in April, putting 11,000 jobs at risk and its previous owners, including billionaire Sir Philip Green, have come in for widespread criticism for leaving the business with a £571 million pension-fund black hole.

On Monday, the chief executive of the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) Alan Rubenstein and Pensions Regulator chief executive Lesley Titcomb were grilled by MPs over their handling of the fund.

Separately, a campaign has been launched by the retailer to garner support following its administration.

British landmarks, including Marble Arch, were lit up last night with the words "#SaveBHS" projected on to them.

Tony Holdway, marketing and creative director of BHS, said: "The #SaveBHS campaign speaks on behalf of the 11,000 staff at risk and our millions of customers all over the UK who do not want to see another British institution disappear from the great British high street.

"We ask that everyone join us in support of British Home Stores, tweet or Instagram us with your messages using #SaveBHS. We do not intend to go down without a fight."

Administrator Duff & Phelps has set a deadline of 5pm on Tuesday for offers for BHS. It is understood that potential buyers for some or all of the 164-store chain include Sports Direct, Ikea and discount retailer B&M.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "This Government takes the impact of business rates extremely seriously.

"It's why we postponed the 2015 revaluation because it would have led to unexpected and sharp increases in bills for a significant number of businesses across the country.

"The truth is, this Government is backing business and has recently announced the biggest ever cut in business rates in England, worth over £6 billion over the next five years."

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