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House of Commons committee urged by Usdaw to back a retail recovery plan

Date: 14 September 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has today responded to the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee call for evidence on supporting our high streets after the impact of Covid-19.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “The UK retail sector has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic on an unprecedented scale. For an industry already facing significant challenges, the long-term impacts will be severe, particularly for high street retailers without an online offer. Therefore while safe online retail was a way to keep the economy moving during the early weeks of the national lockdown, it has left high-street retail in crisis.
“Even before the pandemic, high streets were already in decline, with vacant properties and job losses seen all too often. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the decline of the high street in a way none of us could have foreseen; but there are still many stakeholders – businesses, workers, shoppers and community leaders – who are invested in saving this crucial industry.
“Retail has been significantly impacted by the virus with around 1.6 million retail workers furloughed, more than any other sector. As the job retention scheme comes to end next month, the stark reality of the job losses within the retail sector will be felt right across the UK economy.
“The retail industry is the largest private sector employer in the UK, employing around three million people and contributing 11% to the UK economic output. As a fundamental part of the UK economy, the Government has a responsibility to recognise that individual retailers cannot overcome the problems facing our high streets alone.
“With so many jobs and such a crucial part of our economy at stake, our high streets need focused government support and intervention to see them through this crisis. This is why Usdaw is urging the Government to work with all key stakeholders to develop an urgent recovery plan to help retailers and our local high streets.”
Usdaw is calling for an urgent recovery plan from Government to address the challenges facing the retail sector following the coronavirus pandemic, which should include the following:
  • Fundamental reform of business rates. The Government has now launched a consultation which will conclude in Spring 2021. Following this retailers need clear and decisive action from Government to fundamentally reform this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax.
  • An immediate and comprehensive review of rental values and lease arrangements. Measures such as the moratorium in rent evictions are welcome but will only provide short term relief. We need a re-balancing of power between landlords and tenants and a wider debate around the future of the commercial property market and how rents and leases are set and negotiated.
  • 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 bricks and mortar 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.
Notes for 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.
Usdaw response to the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee call for evidence - Supporting Our High Streets After Covid-19: www.usdaw.org.uk/HCLGEvidence
For further information please contact Usdaw’s Media Officer, David Williams on: 0161 249 2469, 07798 696 603 or by e-mail to [email protected]
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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