COUNCIL bosses will be “complicit” in the loss of jobs if they refuse to help Beales by allowing it a discount on its huge business rates bill, an MP has said.

Bournemouth West MP and government minister Conor Burns has thrown his weight behind calls for BCP Council to come to the aid of the department store chain.

Beales this week appointed administrators from KPMG. “Closing down” sales are under way while administrators work to save the business.

BCP leader Cllr Vikki Slade has said the council is “unable” to help Beales with its business rates bill, which comes to £440,000 for its Bournemouth store alone. She said easing the store’s rent bill would hit council services.

Mr Burns said: “The high street is under enormous pressure. We can see that in Bournemouth and across the country. It’s part of a change in shopping habits and a move towards internet buying.

“But the reality is that these big stores in Bournemouth are the anchor stores. They’re the stores that generate the footfall that keeps the smaller stores going. If you lose in Bournemouth and possibly Poole as well, you will put even further pressure on the smaller businesses.”

He urged the council to “get around the table” for talks with Beales and administrators this week.

“If it doesn’t do that, the council will be complicit in the loss of jobs and the loss of revenue and the potential impact on services,” he said.

He said the Localism Act allows councils to give a discount on business rates where it is in the interests of council tax payers.

Rates are set by central government and Mr Burns said he was also lobbying fellow ministers. “I think the system is in urgent need of fundamental review,” he said.

Tony Brown, Beales’ chief executive and owner, said the council leader’s comments were “unhelpful” and that BCP had a “bias” against Bournemouth town centre. “BCP needs to start thinking about a town centre plan, which they don’t have,” he said.

“They do need to at least enter into a meaningful dialogue, which they haven’t.”

Town centre councillor Mike Greene said: “The council really has to rather than just blurt out the obvious really look into the situation on an individual basis. It’s got to work out where its priorities are as far as Bournemouth town centre and the high street and BCP is concerned.

If that means that in an individual case, business rates are what would make the difference between a business surviving and not surviving, then that should be looked at.”

Helena Hudson, managing director of the Real Eating Company – which has a cafe near Beales – said the council should defer business rates with a “preferred creditor guarantee” in place, so that it could collect the bill plus interest later.

Cllr Slade said: “After a long history of trading in our towns, we are saddened to hear that Beales department stores has now entered the administration process.

“During our recent discussions with Beales, a request was made to exempt them from paying their business rates in order to aid their financial position. Unfortunately, we are not able to grant such exemptions as business rates are a national tax which we are required to collect on behalf of government. As difficult as it is, we have to consider that any financial support to the store would have had to come out of council budgets and this would therefore have a direct impact on council service delivery.

“However, we recognise the impact of the closure of two Beales stores and the head office in our area and will be speaking to other council areas with stores to see how they are looking to support their local retail economy. Officers are also in discussion with the company to see if there is anything further that we can do.”