The British Retail Consortium is urging Chancellor Philip Hammond to include action to support consumer spending and help encourage private sector investment in the upcoming budget.
In a submission sent to Hammond last week, the BRC proposed a series of recommendations to support the retail industry in maximising its future contribution to the UK’s success during period of “profound change and uncertainty”.
One of the key recommendations includes freezing the business rates multiplier in April 2018 – which would otherwise increase business rates bills and potentially divert £270 million of retail investment from delivering for consumers and away from local investment.
Other recommendations include keeping the cost of living down for consumers by not increasing income tax rates, providing additional flexibility in how apprenticeship levy funds can be spent, increasing the basic digital literacy skills of the large parts of the workforce, ensuring retailers do not face double regulatory charges or new financial burdens from the EU withdrawal, and investment in infrastructure at ports and border control points to ensure an orderly exit from the EU.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said retailers want to help build the confidence of their customers rather than damage it, but in order to achieve this they need the support of government policy that keeps down the cost of living – not exacerbate it.
“The cumulative burden of government-imposed costs has become acute,” she said.
“Indeed, September’s inflation figures mean retailers are faced with a £270 million leap in their business rate tax bills alone next spring.
“With retailers’ margins being squeezed to their limit, this is money that could be better spent investing in keeping prices low for consumers, in local communities up and down the country and in developing a workforce which is fit for the future.
“Without the Chancellor’s intervention, the consequences for town centres and jobs will be even more keenly felt in the most vulnerable communities.
“For consumers, the squeeze on household incomes will be compounded as the pound in their pocket buys them even less at the checkout.”