Independent retailers have overwhelmingly rejected last week’s Budget, warning that it will be bad for small business and potentially result in loss of employment.
The rise in the minimum wage from £6.50 to a ‘living wage’ of £7.20 next year and £9 by 2020, combined with moves to relax Sunday Trading rules, has alarmed a number of store owners.
Sanjeev Vadhera, director of North East Convenience Stores, dismissed the argument that the “back end would pay for the front end”.
He added: “A cut in corporation tax and rise in the National Insurance allowance will not pay for the living wage.
“We’re already revaluating our business plan and are planning employment cuts in response to the living wage - it’s too much of a step up. I didn’t expect the Budget to be as intrusive as it was.”
Nigel Dowdney, who owns two c-stores in Norfolk, said: “It’s an incredibly bad Budget for small business.
“The attempt to pass the buck on Sunday trading to local authorities is frankly a dangerous move. So many retailers rely on Sunday trading as their mainstay of the week and it makes no sense to withdraw that support. The living wave is also abominable. The government is simply shifting responsibility for welfare from the state to business.”
Mark Canniford, of Spar Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, said he was also looking at how he could reduce his staff hours.
“The new Budget will hurt Britain and it will hurt small businesses. Inflation is essential for small businesses like us to be able to pay the new living wage. I will certainly not be taking on any more staff, especially those over 25. I agree that staff are underpaid, but I don’t agree with how it’s being done.”
Mike Grundy, who owns The Village Stores and Hampton Wines in Arden, West Midlands said the living wage was “a stark reminder that a small village stores is hardly ever a viable business”.
He added: “I’d love to provide jobs in the community but the maths just gets harder and harder. In order to make the business work we’re open 92 hours a week & I personally do another 10 on top of that in preparing & delivering papers. It only works because we do it ourselves for a pittance.”
Leon Graves, of Overpool Service Station, Merseyside, said of the Sunday trading proposals: “As a business owner who has enjoyed a slight advantage against the big boys I’m disappointed the government want to take this away from small business owners.
“As for the living wage, small businesses cannot afford this unless prices go up (which will help the big boys) or lose staff making it harder to run a small business.”
Sanjeev said he was also concerned by the lack of clarity on business rates. “It’s one thing after another,” he added.
A number of other retailers also hit out at the Budget proposals, although Arjan Mehr, of Londis Bracknell, welcomed the living wage. “If you can’t pay staff £9 by 2020 then there has to be other challenges in your business that you need to address,” he said.