The Home Office is expected to break its promise to independent retailers by failing to publish the findings from its retail crime report.

The 12-week call for evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff, backed by MP Victoria Atkins, opened on 5 April, and trade bodies hoped it would support new measures to tackle retail crime.

Despite confirming the results would be published in November, betterRetailing understands this is no longer the case.

An anonymous source within parliament told betterRetailing the general election taking place in December has not just delayed the report, but could mean the findings may not be published at all.

“Because of the general election, we will not see the report published this autumn,” they said. “If the current government does not win the election, then the next government doesn’t have to publish a report.”

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During a Westminster debate on retail crime prevention last week, minister for crime, policing and the fire service, Kit Malthouse, explained that initial analysis of the responses showed a widespread belief among the retail industry that violence and abuse has increased in stores in recent years.

“The most common reason given was in the context of challenging individuals committing shop theft,” he said.

“Many respondents felt that a lack of a suitable response from the police resulted in offenders not fearing repercussions, and felt unsupported by their organisation’s policies and management when dealing with verbally abusive customers.”

In response, Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “With an estimated 200,000 assaults or threats to retail and wholesale sector staff in the period since that call for evidence, the Home Office must stop delaying, show some leadership and commit to introducing tougher penalties for the perpetrators of those crimes.”

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Malthouse did, however, pledge to consider how retail crime could be included in the newly formed National Policing Board. “One area we are looking at is neighbourhood crime,” he said. “What we have put into that basket has yet to be fully agreed, and I will certainly consider putting retail crime in there.”

betterRetailing understands there is a risk that the results of the consultation may never be published.

The source explained: “Technically, no one parliament can bind another – so a new Tory government could simply ignore the promise to produce a report. We would basically be relying on the goodwill of ministers in this scenario.”

When asked how the NFRN will prioritise the issue, head of political engagement Adrian Roper told betterRetailing: “When parliament returns on 16 December, the NFRN will be working with our friends in the house to re-establish the APPG on retail crime and start to build on momentum built up over the past year or so.

“This will include pressure on the government to follow through on the work done for the call for evidence.”

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