SOUTH Somerset’s MP has called for business rates to be reformed as one of the town’s department stores enters administration.

Beales appointed KPMG as administrators on Monday (January 20) after failing to find a buyer or new investment for the business.

The chain’s Yeovil branch on High Street is still trading as of Tuesday (January 21) – but all 23 UK stores could shut if a buyer cannot be found, putting as many as 1,000 jobs under threat.

In light of the company’s misfortune, local MP Marcus Fysh has called on the government to review how business rates to be changed to give retailers more confidence and security.

Mr Fysh spoke about the matter in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon (January 20) as part of a wider debate on the economy and jobs.

He said: “I am very keen on what is in the Queen’s Speech and was in our manifesto about reform of business rates. That is particularly important because our high streets are struggling.

“We heard only earlier today that the national department store chain Beales is now in administration. It is has a big facility in Yeovil that I would like to persist there, even if it looks difficult at the moment.

“The company has cited business rates as one of the big factors.

“We need to make sure that our Towns Fund is well-funded and gets into all areas of the country, not just the north, because many in the south-west feel left behind too.

“We depend on that and the future high streets fund for investment in our cattle market site and at Glovers Walk. Without help with the basic infrastructure and reconstruction of those sites, which is quite difficult, it is hard to regenerate our main town.”

Bridgwater and Glastonbury were both selected by the government to apply for a share of the £3.6bn Towns Fund, which is designed to drive economic development and encourage investment.

South Somerset District Council is to spend £2.5M on its Yeovil Refresh programme to regenerate the town centre.

Mr Fysh welcomed the government’s move to increase the business rate discount for small businesses – but added the whole system needed an overhaul.

He said: “Increasing that [the discount] to 33 per cent really is a big deal for smaller businesses.

“We need to reform the whole system and try to use that to devolve the ability to invest locally raised taxes in our local economies and have them compete with each other.

“That can create the dynamism in our economy to really grow and create jobs into the future.”

Prior to entering administration, reports surfaced that Beales may have paid more than £1M more in business rates than it was supposed to have done, across all of its UK stores.

The company saw a 14 per cent decline in its rateable value in the 2017 valuation and therefore should have seen a 14 per cent reduction in its rates bill.

Instead, its rates dropped only three per cent in 2017/18, with drops of one per cent and two per cent in the following two years respectively.

John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers head of business rates, said this “had certainly contributed to the business’s current demise.”

He added: “In a period in which retail has already been struggling due to internet competition and other rising costs, such rates reductions have been pitifully inadequate.”

Beales chief executive Tony Brown described the business rates situation at the company as “lunacy”, claiming that in some stores the rate bill is three or four times the rent bill.

Beales has confirmed it has not previously applied to South Somerset District Council for business rate relief.

KPMG has not confirmed whether it is looking into this as an option for keeping the Yeovil branch open.