With the Chancellor Philip Hammond (pictured) having announced the Autumn Budget, NFU Mutual business sector specialist Mark Easy was among those to comment on the implications for retailers.
“It was encouraging to see some measures made by the Chancellor to keep the vibrant social spaces of the community alive – our high streets and pubs,” he said.
“It is promising that concerns about the unfairness of business rates are being listened to, although further reform to the business rates system is needed to provide retailers with the security they need. Bringing forward the switch to the CPI inflation index to April 2018, and the ability for businesses to have rates revalued, will go some way to improving the fairness of the system in a measure that the Chancellor says will save businesses £2.3bn.
“Pubs with a rateable value of under £100,000 will welcome the continuation of the £1,000 discount rate for a further year, but they alongside retailers and other businesses under the current rating system will be seeking further assurances to give them confidence for the medium to long term future.”
On the VAT crackdown and the threshold, he added: “Cracking down on online VAT evasion is the first step in creating a more level playing field for bricks and mortar retailers.
“Those running small retail businesses will heave a sigh of relief that despite speculation, they won‘t be faced with expensive accounting admin as the Chancellor has decided to keep the threshold for VAT registration at £85,000, in recognition of small businesses as the backbone of the country’s economy.”
The move from RPI to CPI indexation being brought forward by two years to 2018 was also commented upon by British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE.
She said: “This is a hugely welcome and positive move. From being caught in a web of competing pressures from all parts of the economy, limiting the scope for action, it’s clear that the Chancellor has listened to the retail industry and the growing chorus from across business and commercial life who have spoken up in favour of action to mitigate rising rates bills. Crucially, this relief will unleash investment that retailers want to direct towards the needs of their customers. This will be particularly critical at a time when shoppers’ disposable income is being squeezed further and the growth projections for the economy have been downgraded.
“Introducing three yearly revaluations is also a positive move to improve fairness of the system. These are encouraging first steps, so now is the time to commit once and for all to putting the rates system on a more affordable and sustainable footing, to support local communities, shops and jobs. We are keen to work with Government to deliver on that.”