Call for shop-friendly Autumn Statement as Living Wage looms
The Chancellor has been urged to cut the burden on small independent stores ahead of his Autumn Statement on November 25, to mitigate the “significant” impact of recent proposals such the National Living Wage.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which lobbies on behalf of over 30,000 small shops, has criticised the plans set out in this year’s Budget.
These also include proposed changes to business rates, which the ACS says falls shy of a “meaningful reform”, and the devolution of Sunday trading powers to local authorities.
The ACS – which counts the Guild of Fine Food and the Rural Shops Alliance among its corporate members – has argued these changes are already having an impact, as local shops and small businesses and businesses delay their investment plans and look at cutting back on the number of staff hours.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said optimism in the convenience sector has reached its lowest level for two years. He called on the Chancellor to drop the “unpopular and unnecessary” plans to remove Sunday trading regulations and to follow through on his commitment to conduct a “meaningful” reform of business rates.
Investment levels in some sectors had fallen by over 35%, the ACS said, following the announcement of the new National Living Wage, which some delis and farm shops argue may prove more of a challenge to the fine food sector in the long-term than the extension of Sunday trading powers.
Independent delis and food stores have already thrown their support behind proposals that would make the business rates system more transparent, flexible and more conducive to small business growth.
This would include seeing business rate exemptions for investment to promote growth, more frequent valuations, along with a cap for small businesses and the removal of the smallest businesses from the rating list altogether.
The full ACS submission is available on its website here.