Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has renewed calls for business rates reform.

Speaking at the Party’s annual conference, McDonnell said that “we need a business rates system that supports small businesses rather than impedes them”, but admitted that “further work” is needed on retailer and small firm taxation.

Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier pledge not to raise corporation tax for small businesses was reaffirmed. Labour plans to increase corporation tax to 26%, but the reintroduction of a lower rate would see small retailers on 21% by 2020. The current Government plans to reduce all corporation tax to 17% by 2020.

Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry applauded Labour’s investment strategy as “fundamental to improving small business productivity”, but also criticised what the association views as a shortage of discussion on business issues.

“Spokespeople and MPs should be debating new policy ideas as to how a future Labour government would reform a broken business tax system, boost trade and apprenticeships, back the genuinely self-employed and tackle the growing costs of doing business,” he said.

The shadow chancellor also discussed the Party’s wage plans at the conference. “Britain deserves a pay rise. It’s why we will introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour,” he said.

At another fringe event, the ACS and British Soft Drinks Association outlined how a deposit return scheme could impact independent retailers, with one Labour Party member later describing the issue as “complex”. Following the event, James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “We believe that the Government should focus its efforts on working with local councils to maximise the effectiveness of kerbside recycling and not place extra burdens on retailers.”

Elsewhere, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith said Northern Ireland should remain part of the EU – a move that would end convenience retailer concern over loss of trade and supplier access.

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