Earlier this month, we submitted our views on what George Osborne’s priorities should be when he delivers the final Budget before the 2015 General Election.
In recent years, our agenda has been topped by tackling business rates rises and a system that has kept rates rising even as sales and profit decline. There has been progress in this area, not least two business rates discounts of £1,000 and £1,500 for shops under £50,000 rateable value, plus a 2% cap on annual increases and the extension of Small Business Rate Relief.
But it’s the long-term future of business rates that should come under scrutiny. How do we deal with internet businesses paying a fraction of the equivalent rates for a high street store? How can the rates system promote investment rather than effectively double-charging businesses who make improvements? How can we make the system for calculating and collecting business rates simpler and fairer, cutting the crippling levels of rates appeals?
Osborne was right to announce a full scale review of business rates in his Autumn Financial Statement, but at the time of writing we still haven’t seen terms of reference for the review. The Budget is an opportunity to energise and drive this review, not just to re-announce it while it sits in the long grass.
We may see an announcement on the national minimum wage, keeping the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations for the rate from October this year as a crowd-pleasing pre-election announcement – sadly retailers are not the crowd he will be appealing to. Further minimum wage increases will place huge burdens on retailers and will slow down investment in stores.
Again, there is a long-term challenge here. We do not believe the minimum wage should be used as a political football. The Low Pay Commission is in place to consider all of the evidence from both the point of view of business and staff, and they should be allowed to do so without interference from politicians.
Find out more about all of the messages to Government in our Budget submission, or any of our other lobbying work, on Twitter.