What are the big three parties promising the retail sector?

On 12 December, the UK will hold a general election to vote in a new government. GlobalData’s Retail Insight Network talks to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to find out how the policies of the three big parties – the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – could affect UK retail.

The Conservative Party

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson tells GlobalData: “The BRC welcomes the Conservative commitment to review our broken business rates system, which holds back investment and accelerates job losses and store closures across the country. However, in the shorter term, additional fixes are necessary.

“The offer to cut business rates for SMEs, unfortunately, will not slow the decline in high streets that has seen many household names disappear in recent years. The Conservatives need to commit to supporting investment and growth in retailers, large and small, particularly as the majority of the UK’s three million retail workers are employed in businesses that will not benefit from the Conservatives’ proposed rates cuts.

The Labour Party

Dickinson tells GlobalData: “We were pleased to note the Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to a retail industrial strategy. From sustainability to business taxes to skills, it is vital that there is joined-up thinking across Government to ensure that retailers do not face an unstainable burden of cumulative costs.

“We were also encouraged by Labour’s focus on making the Apprenticeship Levy system fit for purpose by allowing greater flexibility in what Levy funds can be spent on. However, we would urge caution around Labour’s plans to divert 25% of Levy funds to apprenticeships in construction and manufacturing. Any additional apprenticeships should not be funded from retailers’ funding pots, reducing the monies available to reskill the retail workforce during the industry’s transformation.

Liberal Democrats

Dickinson tells GlobalData: “We welcome recognition from the Liberal Democrats that the business rates system is broken and needs reforming, but it is unclear whether replacing it with a Land Value Tax is the solution. Retailers are currently going through dramatic transformation and any further public policy costs, such as extending DRS proposals or diverting Levy funds to the planned Social Mobility Fund is counterproductive in securing the future of the high street.”globaldata.com

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