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Don’t forget the needs of independent retailers

The NFRN has written to Chancellor George Osborne asking him not to ignore the needs of small and independent retailers when he delivers next Wednesday’s Budget.

In a letter to Mr Osborne, accompanying the NFRN’s 2016 Budget submission, chief executive Paul Baxter wrote: “While we support your efforts to restore a strong economy, we feel that small and independent retailers are often forgotten.

“The Spring Budget 2016 will be a key opportunity to help strengthen business confidence among our 15,000 members and help secure the future of independent retailers, who are part of their local communities across the United Kingdom.”

Mr Baxter warned that the confidence of Federation members was being severely tested with the forthcoming National Living Wage, legislation surrounding pension auto-enrolment, business rates, corporation tax, higher energy costs and increasing carriage charge rates.

The NFRN’s proposals would “strengthen independent retailer confidence and back micro-businesses, enabling them to grow and compete with the rest of the economy,” Mr Baxter explained.

Within its submission the NFRN is calling for the Chancellor to urgently reform business rates, increase the Retail Relief Scheme from its current £1,500 to £2,000 and reintroduce the 2 per cent cap on the annual business rates increase.

Commenting, Mr Baxter said: “Business rates remain the priority tax in need of reform. The system is no longer fit for purpose. For some NFRN members the cost of doing business – with business rates being a contributing factor – can be too much and they are forced to close, depriving communities of a valued service.

“Small business rate relief has been crucial in preventing independent retailers from further closures, which is why we are calling for an increase from the current £1,500 to £2,000. We also believe that reintroducing the 2 per cent cap on the annual business rates increase will provide businesses with certainty regarding future rates bills.”

The NFRN wants micro-businesses to be exempt from corporation tax. Such a move would lessen the cost burden on small shopkeepers and would allow them to invest in their shops, create jobs and contribute even further to the economy and their local communities.

The Chancellor is also asked to ring fence and secure HMRC funding to continue the fight against the illicit trade to protect the businesses of NFRN members who legitimately sell alcohol and tobacco.

Raising concerns about the impact that the National Living Wage will have on micro-businesses when it takes effect next month, the NFRN’s submission requests a full analysis to ensure that it is deliverable and will not result in job cuts. This request comes in the light of an NFRN survey on the effects of the National Living Wage on independent retailers which showed that over 28% of members would have to cut staff hours, 17% would make staff redundant and 14% said it would prevent them from expanding or employing more staff.

NFRN National President Ralph Patel said: “With independent retailers clearly under extreme pressure, the forthcoming Living Wage for staff over 25 years old is the final straw for many.”

And he added: “NFRN members already work some of the longest working weeks, so to cut staff hours and work more hours themselves is increasingly becoming unfeasible, as there cannot be many hours left in the week! The government needs to realise the burden the National Living Wage will have on small independent businesses before it is too late.”

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