Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak

The NFRN has urged the government to take four steps to support local shops in its upcoming Autumn Budget on 27 October.

In a briefing document sent to chancellor Rishi Sunak, and seen by betterRetailing, the trade body asked the government to reduce business rates permanently for all small businesses, increase employer National Insurance contribution thresholds, support stores to upgrade CCTV and security systems and guarantee that deposit return scheme deposits would be VAT free.

The NFRN said: “Play an important part in supporting the independent retailers who stepped up to support their local communities during the coronavirus lockdowns.”

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Store security

In 2020, a survey by betterRetailing in partnership with the NFRN found the average local shop could only afford 25% of the value of their next urgent security investment, with the average small shop already paying more than £4,000 every five years on crime prevention tools.

Later that year, betterRetailing, supported by the NFRN, presented the findings to a meeting attended by the minister for crime and policing, Kit Malthouse, and called on the government to support local stores.

In its latest briefing document, the NFRN also called on Sunak to include “a grant scheme to assist retailers in upgrading security and CCTV in their stores” in his budget at the end of this month.

The NFRN warned: “Unlike the supermarket chains, independent retailers lack the security investment and infrastructure to protect their staff from incidents and to assist the police when attacks occur.”

The NFRN highlighted that CCTV in local shops “is often not of modern evidentiary standard and footage from older systems can be difficult to transfer to the police”.

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Business rates

Despite the reform of the business rates system being promised in the Conservative party’s 2017 and 2019 manifestos, it remains nowhere to be seen.

Sunak again kicked rates changes into the long grass this week, but it remained on the NFRN’s priorities.

The federation said that relief for small businesses was often short term and did not provide the certainty businesses looking to invest need.

The NFRN said: “We, therefore, call on you to make business rate relief 100% permanent for small retailers with a rateable value of less than £51,000.”

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National Insurance

The NFRN briefing reminded Sunak that payroll costs for businesses go beyond just the hourly wage, with pension contributions and National Insurance contributions (NIC) adding to the burden of minimum wage rises.

While the NFRN said it “understands” the government’s desire to push the minimum wage higher, it said the threshold for employers to start paying NICs should rise in order to offset minimum-wage rises and a new 1.5% health and social care levy being added to NICs next April.

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Deposit return scheme (DRS)

Bottle return schemes in Scotland were made even more complicated last year when HMRC ruled that VAT must be added to the deposits.

The NFRN revealed that recently appointed scheme administrators for Scotland’s DRS, Circularity Scotland, is already in contact with HM Treasury and HMRC regarding the ‘complexities’ of VAT on deposits.

The NFRN, therefore, called on the chancellor to exempt drinks container deposits from attracting VAT.

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