Business rates and retail crime top the Fed’s Autumn Statement wishlist for government

In a letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the Fed made the case for measures to support local shops to be included in his 22 November Autumn Statement announcements

Business rates refund failures

Business rates, retail crime, illicit trade and energy bills are top of the Fed’s wishlist for the government to address in its upcoming Autumn Statement.

Business rates

Top of the queue was a call for the current 75% retail rates relief discount to continue beyond its current April 2024 expiration date.

The letter from Fed national president Muntazir Dipoti explained: “This relief is key to the survival of small businesses across the UK.”

Chartered surveyor Ian B Sloan told Better Retailing that while many newsagents and smaller convenience stores will receive the continuing small business rates relief at or close to 100% discount, multi-site operators and owners of larger or more-expensive sites often rely on the soon-to-end retail-rates relief.

Next year’s rates bills are due to increase in line with September’s newly released inflation rate, meaning an extra £1.95bn bill for shops in England and Wales for the year beginning April 2024, according to rates expert Altus Group. The company also called for “widespread reform” of the rates system to help retailers grow.

Currently, the only change passing through parliament to rates is the Non-Domestic Rates Bill, which is set to be passed this year, providing additional relief for businesses that expand a site or invest in improving their premises.

Retail crime

The Fed’s letter repeated calls to create grants of £1,500 for small shops to spend on security equipment.

Dipoti said: “Investment in measures such as improved CCTV or panic alarms would enable these businesses to better support the police in cracking down on shoplifting offences and help save the retail industry millions in lost earnings.”

Nearly 700 retailers and customers have so far signed the Fed’s petition calling for the grants.

Illicit trade

The £3m in additional funding announced in April for trading standards and other enforcement agencies to tackle the black market in vapes, tobacco and other goods is “not enough”, according to the Fed’s letter.

It referenced “millions” of illicit vapes seized in recent years as evidence that authorities need to be “better equipped” to confront the problem and protect legitimate sellers from unfair competition.

Energy costs

Described by the Fed as a continued concern for stores, the trade group urged that the Energy Bills Discount Scheme be “extended for another year”.

While wholesale energy prices have fallen by 75% since August 2022, many stores remain trapped on high tariffs.

Dipoti also claimed that energy brokers are continuing to use “hidden charges to take advantage of businesses”, despite several high-profile group legal claims against suppliers for being involved in such practices.

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