ACS calls for extended business rates support to avoid spike in operating costs

ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has submitted evidence to the Treasury ahead of the 2021 Budget, calling on the Chancellor to extend the business rates discount in 2021/22 to avoid a ‘sudden shock’ of high rates bills while stores are still dealing with the impact of the pandemic.

In its submission, ACS recommends a minimum 50% reduction in business rates for 2021/22 to taper the reintroduction of rates and avoid a cliff edge spike in operating costs at a time when local shops are still investing in and adapting their businesses to keep customers and colleagues safe.

The submission also notes that almost half of the convenience stores in the sector (42%) would have had to close without the financial support through rate relief, grants and loans provided by the Government over the last year.

While much of the grocery sector has seen sales increase during the pandemic, many businesses, especially those operating in city centres and near transport hubs, have struggled to stay afloat in 2020, so increased business rates relief of up to 100% for 2021/22 should be considered for those stores.

ACS chief executive, James Lowman said, “The operational challenges of the pandemic are not yet behind us. Local shops are still investing in additional services, Covid-secure measures in store, and increased staffing costs to cover absences, so a sudden shock of high business rates costs, especially for those with high rateable values in city centres that have been hit hard over the last year, could be devastating.

'We need the Chancellor to take decisive action to taper the reintroduction of business rates and provide additional relief where it is needed to help those most affected get back on their feet.”

Other measures recommended in ACS’ Budget submission include:
• Extending the deadline for the National Living Wage’s 2/3 median earnings target beyond 2024
• Securing long-term access to cash by restoring the independent setting of ATM interchange fees and guaranteeing that retailers offering cashback without a purchase receive fair remuneration for the service
• Freezing alcohol, tobacco and fuel duty rates, and ensuring that ‘place of retail’ is not a determining factor for alcohol duty rates
• Providing funding to enable investment in EV infrastructure on existing petrol forecourts

Lowman continued, “The Chancellor has the opportunity to take wide ranging steps to support businesses in the coming year as we hope to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

'Enabling local shops to plan ahead without the fear of significant cost increases and disruption to their businesses will have a positive impact on the economy, on local jobs, and in the communities where retailers trade.”

The 2021 Budget is due to be delivered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 3rd March.