By Daniel Hunter
The Chancellor should use his Autumn Statement to do a few, robustly pro-growth, things well.
Publishing its submission to the Chancellor, ahead of next month's announcement, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the Government should concentrate on delivering in half a dozen areas that would really make a difference to consumers and to retailers' ability to contribute to economic growth.
As they battle multiple challenges including slow sales growth, falling consumer confidence and rising costs, retail CEOs are telling the BRC the Government should:
- Freeze business rates in 2013. Rates have risen by over ten per cent in the last two years, and are set to rise by 2.6 per cent in April next year if they are based on September's Retail Price Index (RPI). This would add over £175 million to retailers' bills at a time of relentlessly tough trading conditions.
- Abandon the planned increases in fuel duty to support hard-pressed consumers and businesses. Fuel duty is set to rise by 3p a litre in January 2013.
- Reform the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme. The BRC argues that this scheme is currently too costly to administer and needs simplifying for all participants.
- Permit a one year National Insurance Contributions (NIC) holiday for all employers taking on a young person.
- Ensure that National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases remain at affordable levels and do not exceed long-term movements in average earnings.
- Utilise the potential growth of online retailing by reinvesting the proceeds of the forthcoming 4G auction in the roll-out of high speed broadband.
"The Chancellor should avoid distractions and diversions and focus on a small number of pro-growth measures that will really make a difference to customers, employees and businesses," British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said.
"Success is far more likely if the Government concentrates on delivering convincingly in half a dozen significant areas rather than trying to fight on a much broader range of fronts.
"Our six-point plan spells out retailers' priorities for action that will maximise the sector's contribution to economic recovery, through job creation, investment in communities and offering the best possible value to customers in these tough times.
"In particular, the Chancellor should not pile more pain onto struggling households or retailers by adding extra costs. He should scrap January's planned fuel duty rise and freeze business rates next April."
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