Can we afford to lose nearly 1 million retail jobs by 2025, as predicted by the British Retail? The government clearly thinks so by putting its hands over its ears and shouting la la la.
What have they done so far? The last business rates review by Sajid Javid was a shambles and in his words was deemed “too difficult” for this government to deal with. This historic rates tax was created in the 1500s as a poor tax, and must surely come with a health warning to the Chancellor: Collect tax in this world, not the old one! The Conservatives might not be in power when the chickens come home to roost, but the country will regret irreversibly damaging consumer confidence by kicking the issue into the long grass once too often! Not much of a Tory legacy.
I applaud the creation of the Retail Sector Council but if it is merely shuffling papers just so you can stand up in the House of Commons and say ‘we’re dealing with it’ it’s not enough! Actions speak louder than words.
The government must recognise that to tax online and physical stores differently is reckless. They are taxing the diminishing cake, the high street, but not the rising cake, digital retail. It is deluded. How difficult is it to realise that? Even the big boys like M&S are closing stores, not because the rents are too high, but the rates are too high! You can negotiate with your landlord, but not on rates.
I am for a transactional tax at the point of purchase for both online and physical retail. The solution is not difficult – collect from the online giants, who currently pay very little taxation in this country. They can’t get away with it anymore. We can get rid of rates altogether, and raise extra funds for the Chancellor’s coffers, allowing him to find the cash that the NHS so desperately needs.
Also what about the environment? Inactivity will just lead to more and more vans chugging out fumes, to deliver millions of products, often of low value. MPs will happily campaign against wood burners, but not prioritise this pollution catastrophe already happening. They need to act now and tax accordingly!
So, the high street is like an orbiting satellite looking to land in its new incarnation. The government has the power to create its soft landing, and with it protect the future of millions of retail workers. To do nothing is negligent and they owe retail and the people of this country more.