Conservative manifesto “fails to take bull by the horns,” says British Retail Consortium

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The Conservative’s 2024 manifesto has been criticised by the British Retail Consortium for its failure to properly address ongoing retail challenges such as business rates and apprenticeships. The organisation has however praised the party for its commitment to tackle retail crime with its pledge to toughen sentences for those who assault retail workers.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, comments: “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.

“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.

“However, 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 Labour’s manifesto is yet to be published, it is expected to include a pledge to reform the entire business rates systems to make it fairer for independent retailers.