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NPA lauds Labour plan to reform high street pharmacy business rates

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has come out in support of Labour’s promise to “move some of the business rates burden away” from high street pharmacies.

The Labour Party announced its plans for small businesses on Saturday (June 8), saying that it will “replace the business rates system with a new system that will level the playing field between the high street and online giants”.

However, details of the new proposals remain unclear.

Read more: Lib Dems pledge 'fairer' funding and ‘more pharmacist prescribing rights’

Under the current system, all business properties are assigned a “rateable value” determined by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) based on how much it would cost to rent that property on April 1 2021.

The business rate is the rateable value multiplied by a business rate “multiplier”, according to government guidance


“A move in the right direction”


NPA chief executive Paul Rees said that it was “positive to see proposals to move some of the business rates burden away from smaller businesses”.

He added that “anything that reduces the pressure on pharmacies is a move in the right direction”, noting that they face “huge financial challenges, with ten pharmacies closing a week so far this year”.

Read more: C+D election tracker: Conservative collapse deepens in sector vote

Rees said that the NPA is urging “all parties” in the upcoming election to “commit to reversing historic cuts to pharmacies to allow them to expand and flourish".

The NPA last week announced an “emergency” day of protest action on June 20 to “signify dark times for the beleaguered community pharmacy sector” – although this has since come under fire from the pharmacy union.


Reform the rates


There have long been calls for the government to change the business rates system, with MPs and pharmacy sector leaders calling for the system to be reformed in 2019.

In March 2020, then-chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that business rates would be abolished for one year for small companies in England with a rateable value of less than £51,000, including pharmacies.

In July 2021, the relief became a 66% discount off business rate bills, but the arrangement came to an end in March 2022 – leading pharmacy bodies to demand further business rates relief

Read more: End of business rates discount: what you need to know

Labour’s other “fully funded and fully costed” plans for small businesses include ⁠revitalising Britain’s “high streets by tackling anti-social behaviour” through “new town centre police patrols”, it said.

And it pledged to guarantee “small businesses access to banking services on their high street” by “changing regulations to accelerate the rollout of banking hubs”.

It comes as Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has promised more prescribing rights for pharmacists as well as “fairer and more sustainable funding” as he launched his party’s election manifesto yesterday.

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