By Daniel Hunter

Wednesday's Budget threw up little in the way of surprises, and the British Retail Consortium believe, that whilst nothing is inherently wrong with the Budget, a lot more could have been done to help now, instead of the future.

"One in four people tell us they run out of money before the end of the month because wages are not keeping pace with rising costs," British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said.

"Increasing personal allowances faster than previously planned will eventually give a boost to the spending power of hard-pressed households. But this isn't going to help over the next 12 months when growth of the economy is expected to be slowest.

"The Chancellor's business friendly tone is reassuring but two years into this Government it's not enough. The prospect of scrapping Carbon Reduction Commitment bureaucracy is a welcome response to prolonged BRC campaigning but we need further meaningful action on red-tape that genuinely helps businesses grow.

"The Chancellor is right to keep deficit reduction as his primary objective. He's right to recognise that ultimately the only sustainable way to achieve that is to grow the economy by making the UK more competitive. The acceleration of Corporation Tax reductions sends the right signal but it's not the only tax affecting retailers."

Carbon Reduction Commitment

"Since the Chancellor effectively turned the scheme into nothing more than an environmental tax 18 months ago, we've been calling for the now-pointless league tables to be scrapped. It's very good news that the Chancellor is taking action. He should not delay."

Business Rates

"It's very disappointing that the Chancellor has done nothing to scale back the impending 5.6 per cent increase which will add £350 million to retailers' costs. Inflation is already much lower and likely to fall further.

"The opportunity, previously announced, to postpone part of the bill will help some but retailers use a lot of property and imposing an increase on this the scale is hugely significant for the sector."

Corporation Tax

"Reducing Corporation Tax further and faster will make investment in the UK more attractive but it is not the only business tax that matters. An additional one per cent reduction in Corporation Tax does not make up for a 5.6 per cent increase in Business Rates."

VAT

"The Chancellor is right to retain VAT exemptions on children's clothes, books and newspapers. As the Government considers the treatment of hot food we will be communicating the views of supermarkets and quick service restaurants to its review."

Capital Allowances

"Stimulating investment in equipment and technology is crucial to economic recovery. With the growth in online sales, many retailers are looking to invest in systems. Encouraging this fast growing export sector through tax breaks would have produced great returns.

"The very limited capital allowance concessions applying in some Enterprise Zones doesn't offer help widely enough. The Chancellor should have made similar incentives available in all regions and to businesses of all sizes."

Sunday Trading and Regulation

"Some retailers support relaxation of the current rules on Sunday trading in England and Wales, others don't. It must not be the only part of the Government's deregulation plans.

"The Chancellor recognises the stranglehold regulation has on growth but the repeated red-tape-slashing promises of the last two years have yet to meet the reality. The Government has done some long-overdue clearing out of moribund rules but it must follow through on reform. One-in-one-out is a good principle but it must mean burdens being removed from retail for every new one added. Business is not a single life form. The relief must go to the same sector that is suffering new pain."

Planning

"To work for communities and the wider economy, the planning system should be speedy, predictable and pro-growth. Simplification of the planning process is what we want and what the economy needs.

"It should encourage retail expansion and help revitalise England's troubled high streets. When the National Planning Policy Framework is published next week it must keep the Town Centre First principle for office developments. Healthy town centres need people working in them."

National Minimum Wage[/b]

"The Government has made a thoroughly wise decision this week showing appropriate restraint at a time of falling inflation and rising unemployment. 1.8 per cent is within the limits the BRC's evidence showed would allow retailers to create and maintain jobs. Any larger increase would have piled extra pressure on retailers at a time of weak customer demand.

"It's deeply disappointing that the Chancellor hasn't shown the same good sense when it comes to moderating the planned Business Rates increase in line with current conditions.

"A more predictable system that gives businesses much longer than the current six months notice of each year's minimum wage increase is still needed."

Fuel Duty

"With fuel costs at record highs, eating into household budgets and adding to retailers' distribution costs at a time when sales are weak, worried businesses and households need to know that the Fuel Duty Stabiliser will keep fuel prices down if world oil prices continue to rise.

"The Chancellor is imposing another drag on growth by not cancelling August's duty increase."

Finance for smaller businesses

"Small businesses are a vital part of the retail sector - 92 per cent of retail businesses have fewer than ten employees. Moves to help them find and afford the finance they need to expand are positive. The Chancellor's innovative approach to credit easing should help some small and medium-sized firms with their credit costs. But for many small retailers, accessing capital comes before cost concerns so it's important this scheme is straightforward and really does generate additional lending."

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