The omission of legislation in the Queen’s Speech to reform business rates has prompted the Association of Convenience Stores to call on the government to set out proposals “as soon as possible”.
The Queen’s Speech did not mention the provisions set out in the Local Government Finance Bill, which included significant changes to the business rates system such as the 100% retention of rates by councils and increasing rural rate relief from 50% to 100%. The Conservative’s manifesto pledge to review the rates system was also not addressed in the new legislative programme.
”Thousands of small shops were promised a proper review of the rates system in the Conservative manifesto, and so far we are yet to see anything on the subject. We are calling on the Government to clarify their position and set out their proposals to make the rates system fairer for everyone as soon as possible,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman.
Elsewhere, the government’s plans to bring forward measures to tackle “unfair practices” in the consumer energy market must also be applied to small businesses, the ACS said.
During the speech, the Queen stated that the government “will ensure fairer markets for consumers - this will include bringing forward measures to help tackle unfair practices in the energy market to help reduce energy bills”.
The Conservatives pledged to cap energy bills in its election manifesto, but the Queen did not announce a specific Bill on this in her Speech.
Lowman added: “ACS has long campaigned for a fairer energy market for small businesses.
“We will continue to work with government officials and the energy regulator Ofgem to ensure that local shops and other small businesses are afforded the same protections as everyday consumers, and are not forced into expensive energy contracts with unfavourable terms.”
Also in the speech, a commitment was made to raise the level of the National Living Wage “so that people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers”.
The Conservative manifesto reaffirmed a commitment made before the election to raise the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
The measures in the Queen’s Speech will be subject to a vote in Parliament next week after debate in both the House of Lords and House of Commons.