On 3 December, Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the Autumn Financial Statement. This is one of the most important times in the ACS calendar as, along with the Budget, it sets out the government’s financial policies for the year ahead.
This December’s Autumn Statement is especially important as it will shape the tone of the General Election in May 2015.
Last year the Chancellor helped our sector with a series of welcome measures on business rates, and this year we hope he will go even further. At ACS’ Heart of the Community event last month, we announced a series of measures to make the business rates system fairer to local shops. These include introducing a permanent 2% cap on annual increases in line with the government’s inflation targets; increasing the small business rate multiplier threshold from £18,000 to £50,000 rateable value; increasing the frequency of revaluations by the Valuation Office Agency to once every three years; and promoting a greater use of discretionary rate relief in supporting high streets.
It is time for government to accept that it cannot increase the revenue it takes from businesses through property tax year after year without choking off the investment we need in our high streets, parades and other local centres. Only a fundamental change in approach will work.
Both within the retail sector and across government, there is growing consensus that something needs to be done to tackle the burden of business rates. Now we need action from the Chancellor, which must start with commitment to reform in the Autumn Statement.