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PM’s so-called ‘levelling up’ falls way short of the much needed and long overdue industrial strategy for retail to help save our shops

Date: 15 July 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw is disappointed with the Government’s high street strategy, launched today as part of the Prime Minister’s ‘levelling up’ speech, which doesn’t deliver the industrial strategy that the union was campaigning for before the pandemic or the now much needed recovery plan to help save our shops.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We fear that the Government is merely managing the decline of high streets instead of fundamentally reforming the retail industry, by tackling the structural issues that leave ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers at a competitive disadvantage to online. We of course welcome investment in high streets, but it is not enough on its own.
“With over 180,000 jobs lost across the industry last year and 200,000 predicted for this year, we needed to hear from the Government immediate action to reduce rents and rates for high street retailers, alongside levelling the playing field with an online sales tax. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many retailers and retail workers to breaking point, so we needed government action to be equally significant.
“Retailers need urgent measures to deal with the immediate crisis and a longer term strategy to deal with some of the more fundamental structural issues facing the industry. Usdaw is calling for the Government to adopt an urgent recovery plan for the retail sector.”
Usdaw has called on the Government to immediately:
  • Extend the business rates holiday at 100% until the end of the financial year, as has already happened in the devolved nations.
  • Fundamentally reform business rates. Despite the recent interim report, following last year’s call for evidence, the Government is yet to take the clear and decisive action that retailers need to reform/reduce this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax. The call for some form of online sales tax is getting stronger, particularly in light of the rapid growth in online shopping. A levy set at 1% of online sales would raise around £1.5bn. This could fund a cut in business rates of around 20%. 
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.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers