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Retail

British Retailers Give Cautious Welcome To Conservative Election Manifesto

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents UK retailers, has welcomed a number of commitments in the Conservative Election Manifesto, while also calling for further action on areas such as business rate reforms.

The Manifesto was launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the weekend, ahead of the UK General Election on 12 December.

The BRC welcomed the party's commitment to review the business rates system, which "holds back investment and accelerates job losses and store closures across the country", according to Helen Dickinson, the BRC's chief executive.

"Currently, retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of all business taxes and 25% of business rates," she added. "To solve this, retailers welcome the calls to reduce business rates levied on retail business, but it is vital that this is applied to retailers of all sizes, including larger businesses, otherwise the benefit to our high streets and town centres will be limited."

Business Rates

In addition, the BRC called on the government to reduce the tax burden further, through business rate reforms, the scrapping of 'downwards transition', and the introduction of an 'improvement relief' to boost investment in retail locations.

The BRC also said that it was 'encouraged' to see the party commit to additional workforce training, with £600 million per year earmarked towards the ups killing of workers.

"The retail industry must be able to train their workforce so that employees’ skills remain relevant for the jobs of the future," said Dickinson. "The increase in the National Skills Funds is welcomed by the industry but we urge them to allow greater flexibility in how retailers can spend their Apprenticeship Levy funds."

On immigration, a hot topic in Brexit-embroiled Britain, the BRC said that it was 'critically important' that any future immigration is fit for purpose.

"We need a demand-led system which ensures that retail, and all its complex supply chains, are able to access workers of all skill levels in sufficient numbers," said Dickinson.

Brexit Burden

Meanwhile, on Brexit itself – the words 'Get Brexit Done' were imprinted on the lectern at which Johnson was standing – the BRC said that it 'welcomed the commitment' to end the Brexit uncertainty promptly.

"However, it is essential that politicians commit to a future of frictionless, tariff-free trade to protect consumers from higher costs and less availability of everyday essentials," said Dickinson.

More commitments were also necessary in terms of tackling retail crime, the BRC said.

“With 115 retail workers attacked every day, politicians must take steps to prevent the rising levels of violence. A call for tougher sentences for violent crimes is welcomed and we urge them to introduce a new bill that creates stiffer penalties for those who abuse, or assault shop staff," said Dickinson.

"People who run businesses, people who get up early to get their shops ready, they are doing a fine thing. We should be supporting them," Johnson remarked during his speech.

© 2019 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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