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Business and consumers are looking to the Chancellor’s upcoming Budget for action to support consumer spending and help encourage private sector investment.
In a submission entitled Helping Shoppers Budget sent to the Chancellor last week, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) proposes a series of targeted measures to support the retail industry in maximising its future contribution to the UK’s success and playing its part in supporting the country through a period of profound change and uncertainty.
Retail is one of the world’s most innovative industries, the UK’s largest private sector employer and an industry which is finding efficiencies at a faster rate than many others – which in Government speak means it’s outpacing average productivity growth in the UK. It is also an industry undergoing profound structural change, being driven by the ever increasing demands of customers and the technology revolution.
The BRC points to the risk of an opportunity missed. A backdrop of rising labour and property costs is altering the attractiveness of investment options, as the cost of technology falls and digital capability improves. This has profound implications for much needed investments in local communities, new and refurbished shops, and of course jobs.The implications of this are that it’s the most vulnerable communities that will suffer the negative consequences most acutely.
Specifically, the BRC is recommending that the UK Government:
- Freezes the business rates multiplier in April 2018 which otherwise will increase the bill of every rate payer in the country and simultaneously divert £270m of retail investment from delivering for consumers and away from local investment.
- Keeps the cost of living down for consumers by not increasing income tax rates for the majority of taxpayers and considers accelerating increases in the personal allowance if the squeeze on consumers persists.
- Gives itself the best chance of ensuring its flagship apprenticeship policy is successful by providing additional flexibility in how apprenticeship levy funds can be spent.
- Works in partnership with retail to enhance the basic digital literacy skills of the large parts of the workforce being left behind by the technology revolution and to increase the amount of UK manufacturing of textiles and clothing.
- Ensures business does not face double regulatory charges or new financial burdens from the Withdrawal Bill and makes the necessary investment in infrastructure at ports and border control points to ensure an orderly exit from the EU.
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