General Secretary Paddy Lillis said: “We are staggered by reports that the Government may look at increasing business rates for higher value properties. At a time when experts have predicted up to a quarter of a million job losses, this would be a huge step backwards. The retail sector already contributes £7 billion of rates annually, a quarter of the entire UK business rates bill. Increasing business rates would drive more retailers out of our town centres and put even more jobs at risk.
“We have welcomed the Government’s business rates holiday for retail and hospitality businesses, but we believe that the outdated system needs a fundamental review. The shift towards online retail has accelerated during lockdown. If the Government wants our High Streets to survive and thrive, it should be working to level the playing field between online and bricks and mortar retail, so the idea of increasing this already disproportionate cost for retailers seems absurd.
“Retail workers have made an enormous contribution during the current crisis and their job security depends on targeted intervention by the Government to support the recovery of this vital industry, which employs nearly 3 million people. We want retailers to invest in rewarding, training and retaining their workforce, and a hike in business rates would be entirely unhelpful at this time of crisis.”
Usdaw is calling for a fundamental review of business rates as part of a wider recovery plan to be developed with trade unions and retail employers, which should also include:
An immediate and comprehensive review of rental values and lease arrangements. In the short-term measures are needed to prevent commercial landlords taking legal action for rental defaults during the lockdown period. In the medium term, a rebalancing of the relationship between landlords and tenants is required.
Reform of UK tax law to ensure that companies pay their fair share of tax through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore havens, with the aim of creating a level playing field between online and high street retailers.
Funding for local authorities so they can invest in their local economy, transport networks and high streets. We cannot revive our high streets if core services continue to be undermined.
Investment in skills for retail workers, including through union learning and high-quality apprenticeships. This should include an in-depth assessment of emerging trends and potential skills shortages/gaps within the sector.
A new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours.
Note to editors
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.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
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