Trade groups including the ACS, FSB, SGF and TRA have individually listed their main priorities for the Autumn Budget set to be announced in late November.
The budget is one of the biggest political days of the year, with Chancellor Philip Hammond under pressure to announce changes that appease both Conservative politicians and voters lost at the last election.
Key issues among industry groups included National Insurance changes, business rates and tobacco and alcohol duty, with many also highlighting difficult trading conditions in 2017.
SGF, ACS and TRA all asked Hammond to avoid further increases on tobacco and alcohol duty, with many highlighting the impact of earlier legislation and increases. An SGF Spokesperson told Retail Express: “The tobacco market has been very challenging for retailers and sales of scotch whisky have fallen by one million bottles since the last tax hike.”
The ACS and the Tobacco Retailers Association added that any increases would only serve to strengthen the illicit trade. “It simply pushes smokers to buy from the black market,” says the organisation’s national spokesperson Suleman Khonat.
James Lowman, ACS CEO pointed out that it is the first time that the budget has taken place just before Christmas, and said if a duty increase is decided, it should be delayed until after the holidays as implementation beforehand would cause “significant disruption in stores.”
On business rates, groups pushed that the government must fix its own mistakes by making both the amounts and the appeals process fair.
FSB Chairman Mike Cherry said the chancellor should “inject some urgency” to handing out rates relief, with half of councils still failing to hand out any discretionary relief. “We look forward to all councils having all measures in place by the Autumn Budget,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the ACS’ submission to the government advising on the upcoming budget focused on speeding up the change in the way rates are increased annually in line with inflation from RPI to CPI, a move that would save retailers £250m. The organisation’s CEO also called on the Valuation Office Agency to fix its “flawed” appeals system. “Businesses must not be left without a viable means of lodging an appeal to their rates bills,” said Lowman.
On National Insurance, the SGF said not increasing employer national insurance contributions and keeping Employment Allowance is its “top priority.” The FSB went further, calling for firms to get one year free employer national insurance contributions for each staff member hired from “disadvantaged” backgrounds including ex-offenders.
Other demands included for minimum wage increases to be decided by an independent body (ACS) and protection for the Enterprise Investment Scheme for small businesses after Brexit (FSB).