THE next Prime Minister must ensure under-pressure high streets can survive by lowering rates, a business boss has warned.

Yesterday, candidates Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson addressed the Confederation of British Industry as they attempted to woo business leaders with promises over business rates in the future.

Suzanne Gloyne, Southend Business Improvement District manager, called on the candidates to help Britain’s High Street traders

She said: “The current trading environment is challenging enough without having the continued burden of high, inflexible and out of date business rates. This undoubtedly affects both national and local traders which will have added to the reasons for closures of many chain and independent retailers over the years in all towns, not just here in Southend.

“With increased competition from out-of-town operations and the increasing competition from online retailers, the existing rates system desperately needs an overhaul, to make it fairer by reflecting the changing nature of retail and encourage greater investment in our town centres.”

During the conference, Tory leader Mr Johnson vowed to end Brexit uncertainty and reveal plans to cut business rates if he returns to power after the December 12 election.

While Labour leader Mr Corbyn set out plans for 320,000 apprenticeship roles in England, Lib Dem Mrs Swinson insisted her party is the “natural party of business” because of a commitment to cancel Brexit.

Simona Daniel, development manager in Essex for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Action on business rates has long been a priority of FSB’s small business members.

“Small businesses should be removed from the burden of an outdated, regressive tax that charges small firms before they make £1 in profit, let alone £1 in turnover.

“Switching assistance to prioritise upfront costs would make the UK a better place to start-up and run a business.

“As many high streets across the country continue to struggle, FSB is asking the next Government to fundamentally reform business rates, by enhancing and making permanent the Retail Discount – which entitles small shops in England to a third off their rates bills – and removing more small businesses from the system altogether.”