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Business rates relief reduction puts severe pressure on the high street – Usdaw urges the Government to intervene to save our shops

Date: 30 June 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has warned that today’s reduction in business rates relief could further devastate already struggling high streets across the UK. Usdaw is calling on the Government to provide immediate assistance for retail, which was already in crisis before the pandemic, and work with the union and retailers to agree an industrial strategy to tackle future challenges.
In April last year, the Government paused business rates for hard-hit retail, leisure and hospitality firms, with almost 400,000 benefitting from the tax break over the past 15 months. However, the holiday will end in its current form today, reducing to a 66% discount for companies with a £2 million cap on the support they can receive. This reduced package is due to continue until April 2022.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is clear that measures in the March Budget have not provided retailers with enough time or support to tackle the core issues facing the industry or plan their recovery out of the pandemic and secure jobs across the sector. While the re-opening of so-called ‘non-essential’ retail helped, many retailers continue to face an uncertain future.
“Usdaw is deeply concerned that full business rates relief ends today, leading to additional cost pressures that could push many non-food retailers to scale back, cut jobs or collapse completely. This also coincides with reductions in furlough support.
“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for evidence, the Government is yet to take the clear and decisive action that retailers need to reform/reduce this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax.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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