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    Tories ‘fail to take bull by horns’ in manifesto, say retailers

    People receive a copy of the Conservative Party's general election manifesto and costings document at the Conservative Party's general election manifesto launch at Silverstone Circuit on June 11, 2024 in Towcester, United Kingdom. Financial security for working people topped the Conservatives' list of pledges, which also includes tax cuts, measures to curb migration and boost the economy. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

    Conservative party is aware of the major issues facing the retail industry yet its manifesto released today (11) fails to take the bull by the horns, leaving many ongoing challenges without clear solutions, a leading retailers’ association has said.

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has launched the Conservatives’ 2024 General Election Manifesto, pledging to cut taxes and reintroduce previous legislation if they were to form the next Government.

    Responding to the Conservative Manifesto, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said, “After 14 years in Government, the Conservative party are aware of the major issues facing the retail industry. Unfortunately, this manifesto fails to take the bull by the horns, leaving many ongoing challenges, from business rates to apprenticeships, without clear solutions.

    “On a brighter note, the Conservatives commitment to tackling retail crime remains firm in the manifesto, with a pledge to toughen sentences for those who assault retail workers.

    “The Conservative manifesto highlights the need for a tax system that incentivises business to invest yet does little to bring this about for the retail industry. With business rates now at a record high of 54.6p in the pound, the Conservative promise to ‘continue to ease the burden of business rates’ for businesses on the high street will ring hollow to many retailers.

    “Despite previous promises to reform the broken business rates system, we continue to see  empty shops around the country that have fallen prey to sky high rates. And while the full details of the proposals to offset high street business rates by raising rates for warehousing would need to be seen, it is hard to see it as a viable solution given the wide range of retailers that sell goods online as well as from stores.

    “The Conservatives have listened to the concerns of the retail industry, and we support the calls for new measures against those who assault retail workers. We hope this will take the form of the standalone offence that was part of the Criminal Justice Bill that unfortunately fell when the election was announced.

    “While we welcome the ambition of the Conservative Party to expand the number of high-quality apprenticeships, the rigidity of the existing Apprenticeship Levy means that many businesses are unable to draw upon their own funds, meaning vital opportunities to upskill the workforce are lost. We need to see a wider skills levy that allows retailers to invest in vital training including pre-employment courses, short courses encompassing functional and digital skills, and other advanced courses that will meet the needs of a modern workforce.”

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