The plea was issued by the Retail Jobs Alliance, whose members include Tesco, Greggs, Waterstones, Claire’s Accessories, the Co-op, Kingfisher and Sainsbury’s.
In a letter to both Tory leadership candidates, the body warned that companies are facing an increase in their business rates bill next April of about 10 per cent from inflation alone.
Part of the letter read: “The next government must prioritise fundamental changes to the ‘shops tax’. A permanent reduction in business rates for all retailers, regardless of their size, would make a big difference to retailers’ ability to invest more in shops and stores as well as to create jobs.
“You have both talked of your intention to cut taxes in order to stimulate private investment. If taxes are to be cut, we think a reduction in business rates should be prioritised.”
It added: “While much of the discussion in this campaign has focused on corporation tax, it is business rates that are killing our high streets – a pre-profit tax which inhibits investment and disproportionately impacts those communities most in need of levelling up.”
Ms Truss and Mr Sunak have both indicated they want to reform business rates, but it remains unclear the specific approach they would adopt if they become prime minister.
Elsewhere in the letter, the body writes: “Should you become Prime Minister in September, it is critical that you prioritise restoring the social fabric of our communities. A key part of this is supporting the high streets and town centres that have been so badly affected by the pandemic.
“We know that people right across the United Kingdom care deeply about this issue and it is encouraging to hear you both talk about the importance of this agenda.
“However, we fear that without urgent action many more shops, restaurants and pubs will struggle to keep their doors open.”