The Autumn Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is one of the great set piece debates of the parliamentary year. Greatly anticipated and widely leaked, the Statement lays out how the Government will spend the money raised in the Budget earlier in the year.
What was clear was that the Chancellor had got the message about the damage being done to independent retailers by the current business rate regime.
George Osborne’s decision to extend Small Business Rate Relief for a further year and to cap the increase in business rates to 2%, in place of the expected 3.2% rise, were both welcome developments for hard pressed retailers. Likewise, the reoccupation relief, and relief on multiple premises, may help business to expand as the economy recovers and as such are to be welcomed.
The financial burden on news and convenience retailers should also be eased by the implementation of a £1,000 discount on business rates for retail premises with a rateable value of below £50,000. However, it was the announcement of the review into the longer-term future of business rates that was most significant.
The NFRN has long campaigned for changes to business rates as a significant factor in driving businesses to the wall and we welcome the Chancellor’s announcement.
Change to the current system is not, however, a done deal and in the months ahead it is vital for all retailers to engage with their local MPs to put across the impact of business rates on their businesses. The voice of the independent retailer is a powerful one and for that reason the NFRN will be inviting the Chancellor to meet retailers at our annual conference in Bournemouth.
Therefore, while the Autumn Statement was good news for retailers and provided some long overdue measures to tackle the issue of business rates, it is important to remember that retailers cannot afford to grow complacent.
With the 2015 General Election rapidly approaching, I urge all news and convenience retailers to keep the interests of the industry at the forefront of MPs’ minds.