BRC delivers verdict on party manifestos

British Retail Consortium director-general Stephen Robertson

Read Stephen Robertson’s thoughts on the two main parties’ promises.

As the two main political parties deliver their manifestos, British Retail Consortium director-general Stephen Robertson gives his verdict on the promises of Labour and the Conservatives and reflects on how they will affect retailers.

LABOUR PARTY MANIFESTO

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Labour: "National Insurance will rise by one penny."
Robertson: "This is a tax on jobs. It would add £220 million to retailers’ costs. It would make it more expensive for retailers to employ people, undermining their ability to maintain and create jobs and preventing them maximising their contribution to the recovery."

Labour: "We renew our pledge not to extend VAT to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares."
Robertson: "This is welcome confirmation of the Labour Party’s intention in this area. But this pledge doesn’t extend to changes to the rate of VAT – an issue of considerable concern for many retailers. Increasing the tax burden on customers at a time of continued economic weakness would be a mistake."

Living standards

Labour: "A national minimum wage rising at least in line with average earnings."
Robertson: "The BRC supports the principle of the national minimum wage as a base floor for decent pay. But it must reflect economic realities and not hinder retailers’ ability to maintain and create jobs. NMW should not increase faster than average earnings. That would disproportionately affect those people – the youngest and oldest employees – who find it most difficult to get jobs."

Environment

Labour: "Our aim is to create 400,000 new green jobs by 2015."
Robertson: "It’s important green jobs are generated as part of the recovery plan, as well as efforts to reach Britain’s ambitious carbon targets by 2020 and beyond. Greater support is required for technologies, such as anaerobic digestion and low-carbon commercial refrigeration."

Labour: "Move towards a zero waste Britain, banning recyclable and biodegradable materials from landfill."
Robertson: "The UK Governments are currently consulting on proposals to ban materials from landfill. It’s unnerving to see manifesto pledges to ban certain materials from landfill, when there has been no agreement that this is the most appropriate means to increase recycling rates. The landfill tax escalator has been an effective means of sending long-term messages to the recycling industry. Banning particular materials from landfill isn’t necessarily going to help development of the most appropriate waste management infrastructure."

CONSERVATIVE PARTY MANIFESTO

The Economy

Conservatives: "We [will] stop the most damaging part of the National Insurance rise for employers and for anyone earning under £35,000."
Robertson: "This is a welcome step in the right direction but the entire increase planned from April 2011 should be scrapped. It is a tax on jobs. It would add £220 million to retailers’ costs, making it more expensive for retailers to employ people, undermining their ability to maintain and create jobs and preventing them maximising their contribution to the recovery."

Conservatives: "For the first two years of a Conservative government any new business will pay no Employers National Insurance on the first 10 employees it hires during its first year."
Robertson: "This is a welcome step to assist new businesses as they start trading. This is the time in their development when they are most vulnerable and most in need of help."

Conservatives: "We will cut the headline rate of corporation tax to 25p and the small companies’ rate to 20p, funded by reducing complex reliefs and allowances."
Robertson: "In principle, simplification of the complex system of business taxation is a positive move. We will be consulting our members about the precise implications of this move for retail businesses. "

Conservatives: "Give councils new powers to introduce further discounts on business rates."
Robertson: "Business rates are a big burden for retailers. Because they need a lot of property they pay a quarter of all business rates. If this proposal genuinely leads to lower tax bills overall, that’s a good thing."

Society

Conservatives: "Cracking down on drink- and drug-fuelled violence."
Robertson: "We don’t need new legislation. There is plenty out there already. It should be properly enforced. Irresponsible drinking is not about price, it’s about culture. Retailers are actively engaged in changing attitudes through information and education. Below-cost selling is difficult to define. Moves to prevent it may clash with competition law. The Party would first need to properly define below cost. We would then discuss our response with members."

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