British Retail Consortium director-general Helen Dickinson on the BRC’s suggestions for the Chancellor’s budget

Like many trade associations we’ve been working on ideas for the Chancellor’s Budget. We’ve focused on suggestions that would be good for our industry and bring benefits to the economy including reducing red tape, leveraging exports and enhancing retail skills. However, not surprisingly, the BRC has put business rates at the heart of its Budget submission.

We very much welcomed the last Autumn Statement, with its commitments on supportive discounts and reviewing the existing system, but we really believe that nothing short of a new methodology will solve the entrenched problem we have now.

We published some ideas for change in our The Road to Reform report in February because we wanted to engender the widest possible discussion of ideas that seem to tick the most boxes.

We feel that the three concepts (taxing energy use, rewarding employment, and rewarding successful businesses paying UK taxes) are the ones most worth pursuing because they have the potential to incentivise businesses to make a positive contribution to the economy and to shared political goals, as opposed to a property tax.

“If we all agree that the system is broken, what’s the point of just tinkering with it?”

Helen Dickinson

The fourth concept, reforming the existing system, also needs serious attention but on its own isn’t enough.

The response has been extremely positive. First and foremost, there is much support for actually putting ideas on the table and keeping the agenda firmly focused on the big-picture reform of a system no longer fit for purpose.

There has also been a lot of support for making suggestions for positive alternatives instead of just trying to patch up what we have. After all, if we all agree that the system is broken, and it’s clear that there is a strong consensus about that, what’s the point of just tinkering with it?

We’ve heard some concerns that smaller businesses would suffer because they can’t take on large numbers of new employees, don’t pay so much tax and can’t make such big energy savings.

We agree that they will have to be treated differently. The whole point of the next phase of the project is to consider the policy in more detail, to model how each might work and start to look at how to make allowances where appropriate. Ironically, it has also been said that the manufacturing sector is too big to be included in the energy-based solution.

Again, we’d argue that we need to work through the modelling and then see what differentials to build in for different industries. A blanket ‘no’ before we start feels like a wasted opportunity, which would be a great shame.

We’re on track to publish the results of this more detailed phase of our work in May and very much encourage thoughts and contributions from across the UK economy to add depth and vision to our work in the meantime.

If you haven’t already, please get in touch.