Retailers’ letter to Osborne hits out at planned tax hikes

Julian Harris
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THE GOVERNMENT should back off and give retailers more space to aid the economic recovery, according to a letter sent to chancellor George Osborne this morning.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is calling for slower hikes to the minimum wage and business tax rates, as well as genuine cuts to red tape and freer trade across Europe.

“Retail is facing a real terms cut in consumer spending, job growth is stalling and costs continue to rise,” the letter to Osborne says. “As growth stagnates you now need to be bolder and act with urgency.”

The BRC is worried about the 5.6 per cent hike in inflation-pegged business rates scheduled for next year, due to the runaway level of September’s retail price index (RPI). Such a tax rise would hit retailers to the tune of £350m, the BRC has calculated.

“A massive 5.6 per cent business rates hikes next April would come on top of a 4.6 per cent increase this year.”

Retailing employs 2.9m people in the UK, while 40 per cent of 16-19 year olds in full time employment work in the sector. Yet shops are restrained by annual increases to the minimum wage and burdensome employment laws, the BRC said. “Our ability to create jobs and invest in new stores in the UK should not be taken for granted,” the group warned.