Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed Labour raising the issue of continued delay in reforming business rates and the future of high streets in two debates to be held in Parliament on Tuesday 19 October:

  1. Opposition day debate on business rates led by Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor (Labour, Leeds West).
  2. Westminster Hall Debate on support for UK high streets led by Janet Daby MP (Labour, Lewisham East).

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We congratulate Labour on securing these debates. Many Usdaw members, particularly those working in high street retail, are experiencing job insecurity. The Government’s dither and delay on their promised business rates reform and failure to adopt a much needed and long overdue retail recovery plan leaves the industry in a continued state of crisis.

“There is an urgent need for a recovery plan for the retail sector, which was severely damaged by the pandemic and is now having to cope with the challenges of stock shortages and rising inflation. The recovery plan must involve Government, retailers and Usdaw working together to address the structural challenges facing the sector.

“We also need a fundamental overhaul of business rates, to create a level playing field between online and bricks and mortar retail. The Government’s business rates review must offer decisive and immediate action, rather than deferring the issue yet again. We are in no doubt that business rates and rents are the single biggest factors in deciding whether a store or retail business is viable.

“The retail industry lost 190,000 jobs in the year to April 2021and an average of nearly 50 outlets a day have closed, which lays bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces. Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities.

“We want to see a positive response from the Government to tomorrow’s debates, with a commitment to take action to help save our shops. Next week’s Budget offers the ideal opportunity for the Government to bring forward policies that will help turn around the crisis- stricken retail industry.”

Usdaw’s Retail Recovery Plan:

  1. Fundamental reform of business rates: Clear and decisive action is needed to reform/reduce this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax. Labour’s commitment to abolish business rates was widely welcomed.
  2. A new model for leases and rents: The Government’s call for evidence on commercial rents is welcome, but this must be followed up by decisive action that delivers real change for the sector.
  3. Driver Shortages: Usdaw is concerned that the Government’s continued reliance on relaxing drivers’ hours and attempts to deliver short-term flexibility in the immigration system have been far from adequate.
  4. Tax reform: Increasing corporation tax to 25% in 2023 does not address the fundamental problems. We need full reform to ensure that companies pay their fair share through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore havens, with the aim of creating a level playing field between online and bricks and mortar retailers.
  5. Additional funding for local authorities: With local authorities already facing huge financial pressures before the pandemic, more funding is needed so they can invest properly in their local economy, transport networks and high streets.
  6. Investment in skills and training for retail workers: Including urgent reform of the Apprenticeship Levy to support upskilling and lifelong learning, with greater flexibility in how funds can be spent to create better paid jobs within the sector.
  7. A new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours. Retail work has become synonymous with low pay and insecure hours – this is unsustainable and will not attract or retain talent in the long run. If we want the sector to prosper we need to make sure retail jobs are better jobs – this is not just about basic pay but improvements to Statutory Sick Pay and respect for shopworkers through protection of workers legislation.

Full Usdaw Retail Recovery Plan: www.usdaw.org.uk/retailrecovery

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