Backed by a proper majority in Parliament, the Budget on 11 March marks the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to set out a longer term agenda for the country, says ACS chief executive James Lowman.
With Brexit now all but out of the headlines, the government is set to turn its attention back to domestic policy. Backed by a proper majority in Parliament, the Budget on 11 March marks the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to set out a longer term agenda for the country.
First, the business rates system shouldn’t tax businesses more just because they invest. Currently, if a local shop adds a food-to-go counter, a free-to-use ATM or other infrastructure, its rates bill goes up. How is this fair?
Second, businesses affected by the planned National Living Wage increases need help to meet these costs. Raising the threshold for paying employer NICs to a similar level to the income tax personal allowance wouldn’t cover the costs of the National Living Wage increases, but it would provide some support to the businesses that bear the costs of this government policy. People need secure, local, flexible jobs. Our sector provides 405,000 of them, and the flexibility of these jobs works for people who need to juggle employment with studying, childcare or senior care commitments. What’s better: businesses that offer these secure jobs with flexibility on the employees’ terms, or gig economy jobs around which workers can’t plan and budget? Without some form of mitigation, we fear that store owners will be forced into making more serious cut backs and taking on even more hours in the business themselves.
Finally, we need effective intervention to stop violence and abuse in stores. The 20,000 police officers that were promised in the election campaign will be welcome, but they need to have a visible presence in the estates, towns, villages and parades where we trade. It’s not just about police numbers either – there needs to be targeted interventions by the justice system to stop repeat offenders. That could be more arrests and more prison time, but it could also be rehabilitation and other means – the important thing is stopping the cycle of reoffending.
If announced by the Chancellor on 11 March, these three policies would go a long way to supporting the convenience sector and, by extension, the communities in which they trade.