Local authorities granted over £1 billion in relief under the Small Business Rate Relief scheme in 2014-15, according to figures released by the government this week. That is up 7.7% on the previous year.

The amount of relief granted to empty premises fell 4.2% to £947m.

The Association of Convenience Stores has called on the chancellor to extend the business rate discount for small businesses in his Autumn Financial Statement next week.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Business rates are one of the most significant costs that small businesses face, which is why small business rate relief is such an important and valuable policy.

“The small business rate relief scheme needs to be renewed in 2016 alongside further support to allow local authorities to offer more effective discretionary rate relief schemes.

“Supporting small businesses through business rates discounts is an essential part of encouraging investment in our sector, but it must be coupled with meaningful reform to a system that unfairly penalises many local shops – especially those operating on petrol forecourts.”

In its submission to the Autumn Financial Statement, the ACS called wide-ranging reforms to the system, including more frequent evaluations to ensure rates fairly reflect both the local property market and the wider economy, and a system to bring the rates in line with the economic cycle.

It also suggested using the relief system to reward investment, removing more smaller businesses from the scheme altogether, and ensuring that there is a more level playing field between high-street retailers and on-line distribution centres, which the ACS believe pay disproportionately low rates.

The ACS represents some 33,500 local shops across the UK, including thousands of independent retailers together with those that operate under franchise brands such as Spar, Costcutter and Nisa.