Main Parties Challenged on Business Rates and Employment Costs in Hustings Debate

The hustings debate, organised by ACS and the Federation of Small Businesses, featured Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (Labour), Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke (Conservative) and Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrats) being questioned on their plans to support small businesses through economic incentives.

During the debate, the candidates were questioned on their views on the impact of business rates, with Baroness Kramer calling the system something out of the ‘Victorian era’ and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell criticising the delays that small businesses have faced when applying for relief from local councils. David Gauke reiterated that there was an unprecedented £430m package of reliefs available for businesses, £300m of which was for discretionary relief to be distributed by councils.

All were in agreement that more needed to be done to address the gap between what is paid by online retailers and bricks and mortar stores, with the debate also examining what action can be taken to improve the sustainability of high streets and town centres.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It is clear from the discussions at the event today that business rates remains a top priority issues for local shops and other small businesses. All of the major parties have committed to taking action on rates, and we will continue to campaign to ensure that whoever takes office after the election, the rates system is reformed to be fair to all types of businesses.”

The debate also focused on the impact of rising employment costs. Mr Gauke affirmed the Conservative Party’s commitment to raise the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020, while Mr McDonnell spoke of the Labour Party’s ambition to introduce a £10 Living Wage for all workers by 2020 in addition to committing to setting up a Living Wage Board which would include business representatives such as ACS and the FSB. Baroness Kramer did not commit to a figure on wage rates, but stated that they must be balanced with employment benefits to ensure that people have enough to live, and that public sector pay freezes must be scrapped.

Mr Lowman continued: “We do not believe that the rates of the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage should be up for grabs as point scoring tools during the election. 74% of convenience store businesses have already had to reduce the number of staff hours in their business, which is why rates should be set independently by the Low Pay Commission based on a detailed assessment of the impact on both workers and businesses.”

ACS has produced a guide to the major party manifestos in England and Wales, detailing the key pledges made on issues like employment, high streets and business rates.

This entry was posted by Chloe on Fri, 02/06/2017 - 11:48