Companies including British Land Capital Shopping Centres and Westfield have written to the Chancellor George Osborne calling on him to revise the 5.6% business rate rise to come into effect in April. Led by the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), the companies are urging Osborne ahead of the Budget on March 21 to base business rates on September’s consumer price index (CPI)– which stands at a 2% rise- rather than the retail price index (RPI) 5.6% increase. The British Retail Consortium is also lobbying for the calculation to be based on CPI rather than RPI. In his Autumn Statement Osborne revealed a scheme, which would enable retailers to defer payments, allowing them to be spread it across 2012-13 and 2013-14. However, the BCSC-backed letter outlines that many retailers believe this does not go far enough in easing the pressure the high business rates will put on businesses. In the letter, BCSC president Peter Drummond said: “An increase in the business rate of 5.6% this year presents a clear risk of further retail insolvencies, subsequent job losses and even more empty shops on our high streets as retailers look to further cut operating costs to ensure their long term survival. “We recognise the pressure Government is under to reduce the size of the public deficit. However we strongly believe that a profitable retail sector should be seen as an engine of economic growth, and in turn deficit reduction, across the country where in many locations the sector provides the greatest opportunity for local economic growth and employment. “This is especially relevant amongst the young where unemployment is higher today than its peak 20 years ago.” The BCSC went on to say that operating costs for the sector, particularly for small and medium sized firms, are at a historic high as a proportion of their overall turnover.