Well, that was a surprise. Like everyone else who had an opinion on the election – including Conservative strategists and pollsters – I didn’t expect a majority Tory government. So what does this mean for our sector?
First, let’s not kid ourselves that local shop issues are going to be top of its agenda. Its priorities will be the economy and constitutional issues. There are, however, some manifesto commitments that we can expect to feature soon, starting with business rates, where the full review is progressing. I’ll write more on this soon, but don’t forget that the Conservatives have good form on business rates with caps on annual increases, extension or rate relief, and business rates discounts. We’ll see whether they have the appetite for a bold reform of the whole system.
Logic would suggest that the upwards pressure on the National Minimum Wage would relent under a government of free-market Conservatives, but look at the election campaign and you’ll see all the parties getting into an auction on how high the National Minimum Wage should be.
The terms of reference given by the new business secretary to the Low Pay Commission will tell us if the Conservatives are softening their campaign rhetoric.
There are more positive elements of the Conservative manifesto, notably a pledge to review police cautions for shop thefts. But, more important than the manifesto pledges, may be the individuals selected by the Prime Minister to occupy key cabinet and other ministerial roles. Their priorities may well shape ours in the coming term in office.