Support plea for retailers

Industry leaders weigh in over budget

The latest chancellor, Jeremy Hunt. (Image: Shutterstock/ photocosmos1)

INDUSTRY leaders across Scotland have reacted to the UK Government’s new Autumn Budget and the impact it could go on to have on businesses.

Delivered on 17 November, the latest chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, revealed the UK Government’s plans to support businesses and people during the current economic crisis.

Hunt revealed that the UK Government is now set to increase the UK living wage from April 2023, rising to £10.42 an hour, representing an increase of 9.7%.

While this falls short on covering the cost of inflation rises, it will be welcome news for employees. However, it also becomes another added cost for retailers to handle.

Pete Cheema, chief executive at the Scottish Grocers Federation, said: “The hike to the National Living Wage from April 2023 represents almost a double-digit increase and will hit retailers hard, particularly as wage costs are a large proportion of shop costs.

“This in turn will jeopardise profitability, employment sustainability and ultimately business survival.”

However, industry leaders have welcomed the news that business rates multipliers in England have been frozen at their current level of 51.2p and 49.9p for smaller businesses, which is to last until the end of the fiscal year 2023-2024.

As a result, David Lonsdale, director at the Scottish Retail Consortium, has called on the Scottish Government to mirror the UK Government’s decision ahead of the Scottish Winter Budget, which is to be revealed on 15 December.

He said: “At the very least, Scottish ministers must follow suit and match the chancellor in freezing the business rate here in Scotland in the coming year.

“Some 3000 Scottish retail premises already pay a higher business rate than counterparts and competitors down south due to the higher property rate.

“It is unconscionable that even more stores could end up paying a higher business rate than applies in England.”