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December 5, 2012

Stephen Robertson
Director General, BRC
Reacting to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement today (Wednesday), British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "The Chancellor's made some bold moves to reassure for the long-term and give struggling households and businesses the confidence to spend and invest.

"We've been calling for more urgent action on growth. We asked the Chancellor to concentrate on delivering in a few robustly pro-growth areas that would really make a difference to customers and retailers. This Statement goes a long way towards delivering this but not always quickly enough.

"There were welcome measures, on fuel duty, infrastructure investment and business and personal taxes but some of these are not due until 2014. Retail sales are flat. 2013 will be another tough year. It's retail where many young people start their working lives yet jobs in non-food retailing are actually falling. Much more needs to be done to support the retail sector in its contribution to overall growth.

"It's essential the Government continues its good work on keeping the cost of borrowing low.
The cut in Corporation Tax is very helpful but the sector will still be hit by a third successive huge rise in Business Rates next April and increased capital allowances for plant won't help retail."

Fuel Duty
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "No-one can afford to pay more for fuel. Cancelling January's rise is exactly what we asked for. It will provide much needed support for consumers. It will ease the pressure on household budgets, boost customers' ability to spend and help hard-pressed retailers contain their transport costs. Rebuilding the confidence of customers to spend and retailers to invest and create jobs have to be the Chancellor's priorities.

"For the future, the ritual of announcing rises that are later dropped or delayed should end. A clearer more consistent approach would support longer-term decision making."

Business Rates
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "The Chancellor's failure to offer immediate support for struggling high streets by announcing a business rates freeze is disappointing.

"Business rates rose dramatically in both 2011 (4.6 per cent) and 2012 (5.6 per cent), adding more than half a billion pounds to retailers' rates bills. Shop vacancy numbers and retail employment are already being hit.

"The Chancellor should have removed the threat of a further 2.6 per cent, £175 million increase next April to avoid more empty shops. It's welcome news that small retailers will benefit from relief for an extra year but retail CEOs tell us a third successive substantial rates hike will deliver a further blow to investment and job creation. It is not too late for the Chancellor to offer a freeze to prevent that.

"The Government has already said it will review the mechanism for setting rates increases in future and introduce a fairer formula for the future. This needs tackling urgently."

Empty Property Rates Relief
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Giving a grace period to new-build premises should encourage speculative investment but, with one in nine shops already standing empty, more help to keep high street businesses trading in them would have been better."

Corporation Tax
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said:
"An internationally competitive Corporation Tax regime is excellent but for a property-intensive sector such as retail business rates are more important. It is still not too late for the Chancellor to announce a freeze for next April."

Carbon Reduction Commitment
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "The Government previously changed this from the revenue-neutral incentive scheme originally planned to be just another tax leaving it imposing costly, but now pointless, administrative burdens on businesses.

"We're delighted that the Chancellor has fulfilled the commitment he set out in the Budget to deliver big savings for the companies involved by scrapping the league tables that now serve no purpose."

Superfast Broadband
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Modernising our internet capacity is essential to maximising the economic benefits from online retailing. The Chancellor is right to roll out superfast broadband to improve retail efficiency at home and help UK retailers be even more competitive on world markets. Many of the UK's online retailers are global leaders and contributing to the export drive the Chancellor rightly values."

Personal Tax Thresholds
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Raising personal tax thresholds will help hard-pressed households. Targeting lower income households is right because they spend a greater proportion of their incomes and are struggling most."

Infrastructure Investment
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Building schools is a worthwhile investment in our long-term competitiveness but we need more immediate results.

"Backing specific transport projects that create construction jobs quickly and then help get goods to stores and customers, and people to work, is welcome. Boosting house building will stimulate demand. Our own research shows the strong link with sales of products such as furniture, carpets and homewares."

Local Enterprise Partnerships
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "We applaud putting local businesses in the driving seat on pro-growth investment but this must be within a strategic national framework. Extra Regional Growth Fund money is welcome but let's ensure it's spent in ways that have a material impact on local economies."

New Business Bank
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Small retailers tell us access to credit is one of their biggest problems. Measures including the Business Bank intended to get money to small businesses are important but don't address the fundamental lack of demand from businesses."

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