The British Retail Consortium has reacted with mixed feelings towards the Chancellor’s 2015 Budget, praising cuts in corporation tax and increased employment and investment allowances while attacking the lack of business rates reform discussion.
A statement from the Consortium says: “Without seeing any more firm proposals on business rates, little in today’s statement will ease retailers concerns as they navigate the transformative structural change that is taking place within the industry.
BRC director general, Helen Dickinson, explained that there have been some “welcome changes” in the Budget, which will help retailers support job creation and drive growth. “However, without knowing the detail of the fundamental reform of business rates the gains from today’s budget for retailers and their customers are not clear,” Dickinson adds.
She continues: “We welcome the Chancellor’s focus on increasing productivity. This is a crucial issue for retailers and we are looking forward to the plan which will be published on Friday. I’m hopeful that it will contain more measures to give cheer to UK retail businesses.”
Insights into Helen Dickinson’s reaction to other key aspects of the Budget can be seen below…
On support for consumers:
“As the Chancellor knows only too well the economy is stronger when people have more money in their pockets. That’s why the retail industry will welcome the measures in today’s budget which provide support for consumers. The continued freeze in fuel duty and the increased personal tax allowance will provide consumers with significant extra help when balancing household budgets.”
On Corporation Tax and Business Rates:
“For every £1 retailers pay in corporation tax, they pay £2.30 in business rates. The high burden of business rates combined with other challenges retailers experience means that the cut to corporation tax in 2017 to 19 per cent and then 18 per cent by 2020 is welcome but not enough. We now need to see a move to more fairly distribute the burden of business rates across the economy if we want to avoid further shop closures.
“Today’s commitment by the Government to publish a business tax roadmap by April 2016 is a positive step and we would further encourage both immediate action in addition to more fundamental reform of business rates in the long-term”.
On the National Living Wage announcement:
“The retail industry is not a minimum wage employer. Median wages for hourly paid workers currently stand at £7.30 per hour – this is already above the rate of the new National Living Wage announced today. Retailers will look closely at the new proposals and assess the impact alongside the positive tax change announced by the Chancellor today.
“We welcome the fact that the task of outlining a route map to bringing the National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median income has been given to the Low Pay Commission (LPC). The LPC has always worked well with both employers and employees in making its recommendations and we look forward to working with them in plotting the course to higher basic wages.
“We continue to believe that the real key to raising more people out of low pay will rest in increasing productivity. This will be more effective than playing pass the parcel around the economy with the financial burden of increasing people’s incomes. It is crucial that Friday’s productivity plan addresses the issues faced by retail businesses and creates a sustainable route to higher incomes.”
On the changes to in-work benefits:
“Fundamentally, the design of the welfare system is a matter for the Government but we believe it needs to be clear, consistent and free of unintended consequences for both employers and employees. As the changes announced today are introduced, it is vital that employers are kept up to date on how the changes will work in practice so they can advise their employees accurately when questions arise “.
On the Sunday trading announcement:
“Clearly, devolving decisions on Sunday trading times to major towns and cities is a very significant step. A key issue will be how local authorities reach decisions around altering trading hours. Effective consultation with business and the community, clarity and certainty are essential. We will be looking very closely at the plans and working with our members to understand their views and priorities and develop and industry position as the consultation moves forward”.
On the new apprenticeship levy:
We will be looking closely once detailed plans are available to understand how the new apprenticeships levy on large companies will work to support companies that are committed to training. We will be looking to engage with Government to ensure that the design of the new system supports retailers to create valuable apprenticeship opportunities – specifically seeking to protect Level 2 apprenticeships which are highly valued by apprentices and retail businesses alike.”