Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said:
“Despite the upward revision of forecasts announced by the Chancellor today, the economic picture remains fairly bleak, with the OBR expecting private consumption to make a lower contribution to growth this year.
“That will only add to the challenges of the current trading environment. The industry is undergoing rapid structural change as technology revolutionises the way we shop and operating costs escalate, at the same time as inflation continues to outpace wage growth; eating into consumers’ spending power and keeping overall sales growth low.
“The cumulative effect of these prevailing retail headwinds has unfortunately been highlighted by the recent casualties on the high street, which should re-focus attention to what is going on in retail in the UK at present.”
On business rates revaluations: “We’ve consistently called for more frequent revaluations and welcome the Chancellor’s decision to move forward the next revaluation by a year to 2021 as a step in the right direction. More frequent revaluations are no easy task and require strong collaboration and exchange of information jointly between the Valuation Office and ratepayers.”
On a call for evidence to explore a digital tax: “The Government needs to look more widely than simply focussing on digital tax, instead looking across all elements of business taxation. Given the fundamental questions we now face in a digitally connected and globalised world where tax systems have evolved on a national basis, the Government needs to go further than the current business tax road map, published in March 2016. Specifically, there is a need to re-balance away from input taxes (on things like people and property) and towards output taxes (on profits) as well address other underlying problems with the way that different taxes work. This would attract investment which would lead to greater productivity and improved living standards.”
On the Apprenticeship Levy: “The Chancellor’s confirmation that the Government will provide £80 million in additional funds to support small businesses to take on apprentices is welcome. But the Government needs to go much further – greater flexibility as to what levy funds may be spent on is urgently required if the retail industry is to play its full role. Without retailers’ full involvement the Government’s target of 3 million apprenticeships will not be achievable.”
On the call for evidence on a plastics tax: “We recognise that we need to do more to reduce plastic; it is what customers want and accords with our commitments to our new initiative Better Retail Better World. However, we need a comprehensive strategy which considers all materials and resources and sets out how the Government intends to shift to a circular economy where all resources are valued and reused when possible.
“A plastics tax begs a number of questions such as the time frame for exploring a tax, what Ministers hope to do with the receipts, and the impact on consumers and businesses and we look forward to working with Government on these issues. All plastic packaging items are already 'taxed' when used under producer responsibility measures. Rather than introduce a second system, the current system could be reformed. Any new tax should have a clear intended outcome. For example, increasing the costs of products is unlikely to result in positive consumer behaviour change.”