The chief executive of the British Retail Consortium has called today’s Budget speech by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, a “mixed bag of announcements.”
Responding to Mr Sunak’s pledge to deliver a strong economy fit for a new age of optimism, Helen Dickinson, said: “Retailers will struggle to share his confidence after a Budget that does not do enough to reduce the burden of costs bearing down on our shops, our high streets and our communities. This Budget is a missed opportunity for retail and the three million people who work in the industry, and it prevents retail from maximising its contribution to the government’s levelling up agenda.”
On business rates, which Mr Sunak said he would cut by 50 per cent for retail, leisure and hospitality venues up to a maximum of £110,000 per business, Ms Dickinson commented: “It’s a mixed bag of announcements from the Chancellor, which falls far short of the truly fundamental reform that is needed and was promised in the Government’s 2019 manifesto.”
“With firms still stuck on property valuations from 2015, the move to a three-year revaluation cycle, supported by a properly funded Valuation Office Agency (VOA), is welcome and is a clear acknowledgement that rates have fallen well out of kilter with the wider property market. The freeze in the multiplier is positive, though the evidence is clear that the current rate – over 50 per cent in England – is already far too high.
“We also welcome the property investment relief and green investment relief, both of which the BRC has called for, which will provide some support for much needed investment in green technology and property improvements.”
She added: “While the Government’s 50 per cent bridging relief for 2022/23 may prove to be beneficial for the smallest businesses, it will do little to support the businesses that pay two thirds of retail business rates and employ 1.5 million people. With no reduction in the burden, this will lead to the unnecessary loss of shops and jobs and fails to incentivise investment in all parts of the country. This is bad news for every member of the public who wants a vibrant high street in their local community, with retail at its heart.”
Ms Dickinson did welcome the Chancellor’s pledge to help alleviate the supply issues that are currently affecting retail. At the start of his Budget speech, the Chancellor announced new funding to improve lorry park facilities, an extension of the suspension of the HGV road user levy until 2023 and freezing vehicle excise duty.
Said Ms Dickinson: “This is positive news for our nation’s HGV drivers. The BRC strongly supports the investment in lorry driver facilities around the UK, and we hope this makes lorry driving a more attractive career to those who may be considering it, as well as helping to retain those hardworking drivers already in post.”