Retailers’ plea for Wales budget support
A Welsh retail group is imploring the Welsh Government to address measures in its upcoming budget in order to protect living standards, assist retailers to keep down shop prices, and to help retail destinations recover.
In its Welsh Budget submission – entitled Weathering the Storm: Supporting Retailers and Consumers to Keep Costs Down – sent to the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister Rebecca Evans MS this week, the Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC) says retailers are working hard to keep down the cost of living for customers while battling rising outlays in the face of weak demand.
The seven-page submission comes ahead of the unveiling later this autumn of the Welsh Government’s tax and spending plans for 2023-24.
“As one of the sectors most impacted by Covid, retailers are now at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crunch,” Sara Jones, head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said.
“Shops are bearing the brunt of significant cost spikes whilst customers’ disposable incomes are weakening under inflation most notably due to the spike in energy prices.
“The indications are that it may be a rocky Christmas trading period for Welsh retailers for the third year running, and it is imperative we see action to instill confidence into our beleaguered industry which plays such a critical role across Welsh communities.
“To help Welsh consumers and retailers weather this storm we are suggesting concerted action to stimulate consumer confidence and to cut the cost of doing business. It’s imperative the upcoming Welsh Budget is used to bolster shops and shoppers in the midst of this current economic storm.
“In particular, we must shield retailers from a further hike in the business rate which has such a huge impact on the ability of our stores to operate and invest. Any commitment to reform this outdated system of business taxation will give retailers a much-needed boost during these turbulent times.
“In addition, decision makers must do all they can to protect household finances, ruling out any increase in the Welsh rate of income tax, and pausing regulation which will ultimately be borne by the consumer.”
The WRC is suggesting government should:
- Rule out any increase in the business rate next Spring and set out a timetable for returning the multiplier rate permanently to a lower and more sustainable level.
- Speed up restoration of the level playing field with England and Scotland on three yearly business rates revaluations.
- Protect less affluent workers by ruling out increases in Welsh income tax rates.
- Deliver a clear and outcome focused action plan to accompany the Welsh Retail Vision, one which offers short, medium and long term actions which are deliverable and achievable.
- Consider introducing a Wales wide shopper stimulus along the lines of that seen in other parts of the UK.
- The glut of regulation should be culled or put on pause, coupled with a focus on minimising regulatory divergence with other parts of the UK when policy goals are similar.
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