The Scottish and British Retail Consortiums are looking to the Chancellor’s upcoming Budget for action to support consumer spending and encourage retailers to invest in their businesses.
In a submission entitled ‘Helping Shoppers Budget’, sent to the Chancellor last week, the retail trade associations proposed a series of targeted measures to support the 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.
It is proposed 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 most 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.
- 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.
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:
“Scotland’s retailers are looking to the Chancellor’s Budget for measures which will help consumer spending take wing and stimulate private sector investment. With official figures showing 16,400 fewer Scottish retail jobs and 1,831 fewer shops since 2008, injecting some much-needed confidence into the economy is paramount and should begin with keeping down the cost of living and the cost of doing business.
“The retail industry is undergoing profound change due to altering shopping habits and spiralling costs. Responding positively to this requires substantial outlays on digital infrastructure, a more highly skilled workforce, and revamped logistics and distribution capability. This is hugely challenging against a backdrop in which demand is weak, consumers are being squeezed, and government-imposed tax and regulatory costs keep ratcheting up.
“Scottish retailers will also be hoping the Chancellor listens to those calling for the business rates poundage to be frozen. Since Holyrood has tended to ape the English poundage rate, a freeze in England could free up over £20 million in savings for Scottish shopkeepers to spend on stores, training and other investments.”