Bosses at Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group have called on the Government to step in and tackle high levels of business rates which they believe are blighting the high street.

In a strategic report accompanying the group’s annual results, the Carlisle-headquartered business took a swipe at councils for setting high rates and the damage they are causing to the already under-pressure retail sector.

The report – penned by an EWM director and understood to reflect the view of billionaire owner Philip Day – challenges the Government to intervene and help curb the increasing number of store closures and associated job losses during a tumultuous time on the UK high street.

In six months to September alone, there were 40 retail administrations, resulting in thousands of jobs losses. But EWM Group also highlighted the damage this has caused in town and city centres, as well as the knock delivered to consumer confidence and spending activity.

Meanwhile, it adds, other retailers have been forced to reassess their retail estates by either closing stores or entering into Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA) to cope with the changing retail landscape.

“The high levels of rates charged by councils have been brought into question by the retail sector and the group and others continue to challenge these costs and the damage they are inflicting on the retail sector and its ability to maintain a significant high street presence,” says the report.

“The UK Government needs to quickly address this situation as it continues to blight the UK retail industry and its three million employees.

“The group is committed to its employees but needs to be able to operate on a level playing field with all retail businesses.”

In its annual results, EWM Group posted a £23.4 million profit after tax along with a rise in revenues to £327.14m for the 27-week period to March 2 this year.

The short reporting period brought EWM Group’s accounts back in line with its standard year, following the integration of a number of acquisitions including designer fashion brand Jaeger, Berwin & Berwin and Jacques Vert.

There were strong performances by fast-fashion retail chain Peacocks and clothing and homeware retailer Edinburgh Woollen Mill, while losses were dramatically reduced for Jaeger – one of a number of companies that have been bought out of administration and reinvigorated by Mr Day, who has a fortune of £1.2 billion.

And EWM Group did not hold back on growing the number of its stores – in the case of Jaeger opening 15 in the last few years.

The company added: “Despite the well documented challenges on the UK high street, the group is committed to ensuring that its retail bricks and mortar estate is the foundation for continuing the successful organic and acquisitive growth of the group in an environment where other retailers are reducing or closing their estates.”

EWM Group moved its headquarters from Langholm to Carlisle in November last year.

More than 200 people are based at multi-million-pound, purpose-designed Global House base in Castle Street, from where it is planning further national and international expansion.

It also has its global distribution centre at Kingmoor Park.