THE leader of BCP Council has called on the government to “urgently reform” business rates in the wake of Beales falling into administration.

Councillor Vikki Slade said the loss of stores in Bournemouth and Poole would be “a blow” to the two towns.

But she said there was little the council could do by itself to prevent any closures and urged the government to rethink how business rates are charged.

Administrators were called in by Beales on Monday, placing the future of the 139-year-old department store business in the balance.

Chief executive and owner Tony Brown said he was “confident of a positive outcome” and that the chain was in “active talks with various parties”.

The chain has faced rising costs and high business rates with its Bournemouth store alone being billed £440,000 annually.

Mr Brown said: “While we’ve had a very positive response from all our landlords, which have included Bournemouth, the conversations with BCP Council are exceptionally difficult as they don’t want to set a precedent. The precedent would be to end this lunacy of business rates.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Cllr Slade said the council had to be "mindful" about offering any discount on business rates.

“[Beales] have asked the council for support around business rates reductions,” she said. “But this would create a hole in the council’s budget.

“Business rates are one of only three ways the council can raise money itself so we have to be very careful to not set a precedent for other businesses across the conurbation.

"We need the government to urgently reform the whole system."

She said she was particularly concerned about the effect the potential closure of the Poole store could have on the Dolphin Centre and the town’s high street.

“The loss of an anchor store would be another blow,” she said. “There are conversations ongoing between the council and Beales’ management but they have 22 stores across the country.

“From what I understand one other council is considering offering support but really we would need everyone to be on board to achieve anything significant.”

KPMG has been appointed as the business' administrators with all stores continuing to trade as normal.