Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is disappointed that the Chancellor has again chosen short-term measures, when the retail industry is desperate for fundamental reform to save our shops, boost struggling high streets, while protecting jobs and incomes for the long-term.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“The short-term sticking plasters that the Chancellor announced in today’s Budget go nowhere near far enough. They don’t tackle the fundamental issues that the retail industry already faced before the pandemic, let alone give retailers a fighting chance of mounting a recovery.

“Extending furlough by six months, short-term business rates reductions and one-off grants do not allow retailers the opportunity to plan their recovery out of the pandemic and secure jobs. Huge issues like expensive rents and rates, along with unfair taxation continue not to be addressed by the Government. Today’s Budget is yet another missed opportunity.

“Demanding that businesses make a 10% contribution to the Jobs Retention Scheme in July and then 20% in August is a big leap for non-essential retailers at a time when, even on the most optimistic estimates, many will have only recently reopened and have major losses to recoup. It will encourage staff lay-offs. Also expecting retail to start paying a third of business rates at the start of July will be a big ask, so soon after reopening. The announcement of these two additional costs to retailers could be the burdens that push many out of business or to cut jobs.

“We needed to hear, from the Chancellor, immediate action to reduce rents and rates for high street retailers, alongside levelling the playing field with an online sales tax. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many retailers and retail workers to breaking point, so we needed government action to be equally significant.

“Low-paid workers also needed more reassurance and support. The extension of the Universal Credit £20 uplift is the least he could do, but it should have been done sooner, made permanent and extended to all in-work benefits. A recent Usdaw survey shockingly found that 57% of workers claiming Universal Credit are struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills. It is unacceptable that workers are struggling to heat their homes.

“Usdaw launched a retail recovery plan that provides necessary support for the industry and shopworkers. After today, we fear the Chancellor and the Government simply is not listening.”

Usdaw’s retail recovery plan calls for the following immediate measures:

  1. Extend the current business rates holiday to at least the end of the year and fundamentally reform this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax.
  2. An online sales levy set at 1%, to raise around £1.5bn that could fund a cut in business rates of around 20%.
  3. Extend the moratorium on shop evictions for rent arrears and find a wider solution around unpaid rents, with contributions from retailers, landlords and government.

Usdaw’s full retail recovery plan: www.usdaw.org.uk/retailrecovery

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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