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Labour makes 'cut and freeze' business rates vow

Labour has said it will "cut and then freeze" business rates for 1.5 million small business properties if it wins the next General Election.

Shabana Mahmood, shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: "Labour's better plan goes much further than anything David Cameron and George Osborne are offering.

Labour has set out its stall ahead of the General Election. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

"And unlike the Tories, we won't short-change areas which choose not to have an elected mayor by giving them a second-class deal. Every part of England will benefit from Labour's better plan, not just a few."

Mahmood's comments follow the Chief Secretary to the Treasury's announcement of a "radical" review of English business rates.

'Wide-ranging' business rates review launched

Danny Alexander has launched what the government calls "the most wide-ranging review of national business rates in a generation".

The review, set to report back before the 2016 Budget, will examine the structure of the current system, which is paid annually on 1.8 million properties in England.

Chief Secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

It will examine how businesses use property, what the UK can learn from other countries and how the system could be modernised so it better reflects changes in the value of property.

"Now the time has come for a radical review of this important tax. We want to ensure the business rates system is fair, efficient and effective," the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is expected to say.

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Struggling BHS sold to consortium for £1

BHS has been handed on to investors debt free. Credit: PA

Struggling retailer BHS has been sold by tycoon Sir Philip Green to a consortium of investors for just £1.

BHS, which has 171 stores and employs 11,000 staff, is being acquired by Retail Acquisitions.

The value of the deal has not been officially disclosed, but ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills revealed that the sum is £1, with "substantial" debts having been written off.

The consortium is led by stockbroker Keith Smith, formerly of City firm Nabarro Wells, and also includes entrepreneur and former racing driver Dominic Chappell, as well as Spanish firm Olivia Petroleum.

Sir Philip said:

I am pleased that we have found a buyer in Retail Acquisitions Ltd who wants to develop the BHS brand. I am confident that Retail Acquisitions Limited have a platform to grow the business and return it to profitability.

– Sir Philip Green

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John Lewis bonuses fall to 11% of staff salaries

John Lewis and Waitrose staff will receive a bonus worth 11% of salary this year, the John Lewis Partnership announced today.

As ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills reports, the award is a drop from last year's 15%, as profits at the company fell.

He also noted a comparison with Royal Bank of Scotland, which awarded more than double the amount in bonuses despite huge losses.

Morrisons reports £792m losses amid 'tough' environment

Morrisons sacked its chief executive in January following poor results. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Supermarket chain Morrisons has announced pre-tax losses of £792 million for the year to February 2015.

The result compares to a 2013/14 loss of £176 million, the company said in its preliminary results.

Underlying profit before tax was also down 52% on the previous year to £345 million.

Chairman Andrew Higginson said: “Last year’s trading environment was tough, and we don’t expect any change this year.

"However, Morrisons is a strong, distinctive business – we own most of our supermarkets, have strong cash flow, and are famous with customers for great quality fresh food at low prices. This gives us a good platform."

The company will have a new chief executive as of next week, with former Tesco executive David Potts taking over after previous incumbent Dalton Phillips was sacked.

BCC warns of uncertainties facing UK businesses

The British Chambers of Commerce has cautioned on uncertainties facing business including tensions in the Ukraine and the Middle East and "the most wide open UK general election in decades" as well as the stagnating eurozone.

While 2015 has got off to a good start, there is no room for complacency. The UK is still a long way from achieving the great, sustainable, long-term growth we want to see.

Consumer spending is one of the key drivers in our growth upgrade.

While there's nothing wrong with consumer confidence, a balanced economy that will provide growth and jobs in the long-term needs a much bigger contribution from business investment and exports.

– Director general John Longworth

The BCC has upgraded its forecast for exports this year but slashed expectations for business investment following slowdowns in the last two quarters of 2014.

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