Budget ‘missed opportunity’ for retail

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents 170 major UK retailers, has described the chancellor’s Autumn Budget as a ‘mixed bag’ which falls short of the reform needed for the industry.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the trade association, said that while Rishi Sunak spoke of a new age of optimism, retailers would struggle to share his confidence because the Budget ‘doesn’t do enough’ to reduce the burden of costs currently being experienced across UK High Streets.

“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,” added the chief exec.

Business rates relief

As part of his latest budget, Sunak announced temporary business rates relief in England for eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure properties between 2022 and 2023, worth almost £1.7 billion. During the period, 90 per cent of retail businesses will receive 50 per cent off their business rates.

“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,” warned Dickinson. “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.”

The BRC did welcome both the property investment relief and green investment relief, which it said would provide some support for much needed investment in green technology and property improvements.

But Hugh Blaza, partner at Sandstone Law, said that rates reliefs for green investments could be ‘window dressing’ as their cost may exceed reductions.

Supply chain

To address the driver shortage, the government announced that it would invest £32.5 million in roadside facilities for HGV drivers on the road, fund new skills bootcamps to train an additional 5,000 drivers, increase the number of HGV driving tests available by up to 50,000 each year, freeze vehicle excise duty (VED) for HGVs, suspend the HGV road user levy for another 12 months from August 2022, relax cabotage rules temporarily for international HGV journeys within Great Britain to provide greater resilience for supply chains, and issue up to 5,000 short-term temporary visas for food and fuel haulage drivers to work in the UK.

British parcel delivery company ParcelHero said that the move was an ‘olive branch’ from the government that will reduce the strains on logistics companies.

“After a rocky few months, logistics and delivery companies have finally heard some positive news from the Government,” said David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero. “Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget kicked off with an acknowledgement of the challenges facing the sector and the announcement of new measures that will aid freight transport companies and the many small retailers and manufacturers they serve.”

The BRC also strongly supports the plans, describing the investment in lorry driver facilities as positive news for the nation’s HGV drivers.

Last month the government announced it would cut down the HGV driver testing process in a bid to tackle the driver shortage, in a move it said would make 50,000 more HGV driving tests available.

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