Budget 2018: the NFRN welcomes a budget which sets a path to support independent retailers, but still has concerns about some of the effects on members’ businesses.
After the budget announcement yesterday (29 October 2018), the NFRN is pleased to see that our campaigns to make the voice of independent stores heard have had a positive impact on public policies. The NFRN particularly welcomes reductions in business rates and renewed support to high streets. Such measures clearly indicate that the government is taking seriously the concerns of our members.
From April 2020, businesses with rateable values of less than £51,000 will receive a one-third discount off their business rates bill for two years. That’s a much-needed relief for independent retailers, as they are struggling with crippling taxes. While welcoming this first step, the NFRN renew its commitment to support the smallest businesses – for instance, by calling on the government to increase the £12,000 threshold for business rate relief.
The NFRN also welcomes the new High Streets Fund – £675m of co-funding to support plans to make town centres in England “fit for the future”. In the coming months, the NFRN will actively seek ways to engage with local authorities to ensure that new funding really benefits independent stores.
Commenting, NFRN National President Mike Mitchelson (pictured alongside the Chancellor) said: “The NFRN wants to be a constructive partner to make sure that our members get a fair share of the High Street Fund.”
However, the NFRN regrets that these announcements sit alongside measures that will add extra pressure on small independent retailers.
For instance, the NFRN is concerned that higher tobacco duty will simply fuel a black market in illicit goods and put the long term survival of legitimate tobacco retailers at risk. The NFRN will keep raising this issue to the authorities and ask for more resources to tackle the problem.
The NFRN is also concerned about the new increase of the National Living Wage – up to £8.21 from April 2019. While being aware of the needs for people to earn decent wages, the NFRN warns that independent shopkeepers cannot easily absorb the costs and need to remain competitive. The NFRN is concerned that additional costs could lead to staff hours or numbers being reduced – and, ultimately, question the survival of the smallest shopkeepers. Therefore, the NFRN urges the government to consider the impact of such measures on small and micro businesses.
Over the next few months, the NFRN will make sure that yesterday’s announcements translate into concrete action and support our 15,000 members across the UK.
The Budget 2018 documents are available at this address.