BUSINESS leaders in York have welcomed aspects of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget – but say it did nothing to tackle a proper and badly-needed reform of business rates.

Andrew Lowson, executive director of the York BID (Business Improvement District) said the 12-month 50 per cent business rates discount for the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors was very welcome.

But he said there was an important caveat. The Chancellor could not keep kicking the larger issue of business rates reform down the road, he said.

There needed to be some way of ensuring that digital businesses paid their way, Mr Lowson said - and there was nothing in the Budget about that.

"So that 50 per cent is great - but we need to look at the wider picture of business rates reform."

That sentiment was echoed by Phil Pinder, vice-chair of the York Retail Forum.

The business rates discount for the hospitality and retail sector was welcome, Mr Pinder said. But it would only last for 12 months. “And then after that, presumably, it will go back to 100 per cent..

And the chancellor had been ‘gutless’ in failing to tackle wider business rates reform, he added – and in not announcing measures to force online businesses to pay their fair share of tax.

Mr Lowson did welcome some of the changes in alcohol duty.

But he warned that the positives in the Budget needed to be set against the reality of life for businesses.

"They need to be set in the context of rising utility bills and inflation, which businesses are having to absorb," he said.