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Bira is lobbying the lawmakers in Westminster on behalf of independent retailers
By Bira
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At the heart of government

Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre believes the consistent work the association does in lobbying the lawmakers in Westminster on behalf of independent retailers is among the most valuable service it provides to its members. Here he provides an update to live issues.

BIRA’S LEGAL & Parliamentary Affairs Committee (LPAC) comprises several members from around the country, the incumbent national president, myself as chief executive and Fiona Cuthbertson, our public affairs consultant.

LPAC has a crucial role in developing our campaigns to support independent retail businesses. The core objective is to level the playing field between traditional independent retailers and fast-growing online-only operators.

We also have other concerns and areas of policy, such as business rates, cheap imports, parking policies and regulations relating to the sale of offensive weapons.

The committee meets four times a year and in addition to this Bira meets MPs, senior civil servants and local authorities to press the case for supporting independent retailers.

Business Rates campaign continues

Hopefully many Bira members will have seen their rates bill reduced by 30% from April this year. This adjustment, announced by the Chancellor last October, was a direct result of the campaign developed by Bira over several years and officially launched in our rates manifesto at the Houses of Parliament on 11 September 2018. The rates discount will be in place until 2021.

Our work on business rates is not over, however, as we are continuing to ask for reduced rates on a permanent basis. Over the past few weeks, we have met with MPs from all parties and senior civil servants, arguing always that even more needs to be done.

A Treasury select committee has launched an enquiry into business rates in an effort to better understand the impact of rates on businesses and possible alternatives.

We have already submitted a response to the general consultation. Our main points are:
Business rates have a disproportionate impact on the smaller retailers as they are a fixed cost and do not adjust in line with sales/profits. Business rates are no longer fit for purpose as the system is not fair, does not support growth, does not provide certainty and is not coherent. Bira would still like to see the introduction of a £12,000 rates allowance for all businesses, replacing all other reliefs.

Consideration should be given to a “green tax” on deliveries and returns. This would level the playing field between shops and the internet, as well as potentially improve the environment by reducing the number of delivery vehicles.

MPs call for rates changes

In between debating Brexit, MPs have found time to debate the important issue of business rates and the negative impact they are having on independent
retailers.

Encouraged by Bira, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative MP for The Cotswolds, called an Adjournment Debate to discuss business rates on 9 October last year. Many MPs contributed to the debate and the unanimous opinion was that the business rates system has to change and be reduced in order to support small independent retail businesses and give them the opportunity to prosper and grow.

As CEO of Bira, I am delighted that MPs have found time to support our call for changes to business rates. Bira has been advocating a business rates allowance for those retailers with a rateable value below £51,000 and the comments of the many MPs during this debate confirm that we are making a good proposal that will be considered by the Treasury. This is linked to our contributions to the new Treasury select committee enquiry into business rates as we look to change this system for the better for all retailers.

Bira to join the Retail Sector Council

Recently I had a very productive meeting with Kelly Tollhurst, the minister for small business, consumers and corporate responsibility. After discussing several topics with her I was invited to join the Retail Sector Council established some months ago. This council is attended by key organisations such as the British Retail Consortium and is focused on an overarching theme of “Productivity and growth”, covering the following areas of interest:

  • Business Costs
  • Skills and lifelong learning
  • Employment
  • Circular economy
  • Consumer protection
  • Industrial Strategy

The invitation to join the council is further evidence of our improved awareness and profile at Westminster. Bira is becoming the true voice of independent retail businesses and the high street. On the sector council Bira will ensure that the needs of our members are not forgotten.

What issues should Bira’s LPAC consider taking up with government and the various departments at Westminster? Let us know by emailing andrew.goodacre@bira.co.uk

 

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