As we begin 2013, there are several key policy issues on the horizon that will be central to our agenda over the next 12 months.
The first of these surrounds alcohol policy – more specifically, what the government is calling Cumulative Impact Policies. In short, this means that local authorities will be able to restrict the number of licences granted in an area on the grounds of either preventing public disorder, or promoting public health. While each local authority will determine their own approach, it’s easy to imagine a situation where many areas have strict limits on licence numbers, stopping new shops from providing a full range for their customers.
Second, after years of arguing line by line – with some success – over the new National Planning Policy Framework, 2013 will be the year that it is put to the test. We will be keeping an eye on the decisions that are being made on new developments, how they are made and whether more applications are being called in to the Secretary of State for approval.
Our third key issue for 2013 will be to push Ofgem to go further and faster to stop energy companies giving retailers unfair energy contracts. We will be looking for the introduction of an industry-wide, one-year limit on backbilling and an end to rollover contracts, among other things. Ofgem plans to introduce new measures in the summer, but look out for individual companies changing their policies early to attract new customers.
At the start of last year, few predicted that Sunday trading would be a key issue. After a temporary relaxation over the Olympics and campaigning for extensions over Christmas, the government has stated it is not actively pursuing changes to legislation to allow large stores to open longer on a Sunday. However, that does not mean that the battle is won. We’ll stay close to the decision-makers and be prepared for the issue to be raised again at any time.