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UK: Autumn budget a 'missed opportunity’ for retail, BRC says

By Huw Hughes

Oct 28, 2021


Image: FashionUnited

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has described the government’s autumn budget as a “mixed bag” for retailers, and said more needed to be done.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced Wednesday that business rates for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be halved for a year, which he said will help reduce the burden of business rates by 7 billion pounds over the next five years.

But BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson described the business rates announcement as a “missed opportunity for retail” that “falls far short of the truly fundamental reform that is needed and was promised in the government’s 2019 manifesto”.

She said: “With firms still stuck on property valuations from 2015, the move to a three-year revaluation cycle, supported by a properly funded VOA, is welcome and is a clear acknowledgement that rates have fallen well out of kilter with the wider property market.”

BRC warns of unnecessary loss of shops and jobs

Dickinson described the government’s decision to freeze the business rates multiplier by another year - a tax cut reportedly worth 4.6 billion pounds over the next five years - as “positive, though the evidence is clear that the current rate - over 50 percent in England - is already far too high.”

She said: “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.

“While the government’s 50 percent 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.”