The Government’s tax and spending plans have been unveiled in the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget, delivered in an address at the House of Commons on 11 March.
Grabbing headlines was the Government’s response to coronavirus. “This is a budget delivered in challenging times. We’re doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure,” Sunak told MPs, announcing a £30 billion package to boost the economy, of which £12 billion is to specifically help the country through the coronavirus outbreak (£5 billion for the NHS and £7 billion for business and workers)
“We will get through this together. This budget delivers security today but it also lays the foundations for prosperity tomorrow,” said Sunak.
We’re doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure
Of particular relevance to independent health stores is the decision to suspend business rates for tens of thousands of retailers. Part of a package of ‘extraordinary’ measures aimed at supporting the economy during coronavirus disruption, businesses with a rateable value of under £51,000 will be eligible for a tax holiday. “That is a tax cut worth over £1 billion, saving each business up to £25,000,” Sunak confirmed.
He described the break in business rates as an ‘exceptional step’ which would benefit small shops. Sunak went on to say that the overall business rates system would be reviewed before autumn, after years of the retail industry campaigning against the ‘broken business rates system’.
On environmental issues, a plastic packaging tax has been confirmed to come into force from April 2022; products with less than 30% recyclable material will be subject to charges of £200 per tonne, payable by the manufacturer and importer; and a £640 million ‘nature for climate fund’ will be put in place to protect natural habitats, including some 30,000 hectares of new trees.
Whilst these are all steps in the right direction, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture … many businesses will require more than this short-term buffer to survive going forward
Gary Trickett, NAHS chairman and owner of two health stores, tells NPN how NAHS members have responded to the news: “The increase of the retail discount on business rates to 100% for 12 months is welcomed by the majority of our members, whilst almost a quarter of our membership who are not currently eligible for rates relief will get a £3,000 one-off grant.
“From a personal point of view, we have calculated that we will save approximately £21,000 this year from the rates relief, however this amount would not even come close to compensating us if our stores had to close due to regulation or illness for more than a few weeks.
“With regard to the Government’s promise to refund SSP costs incurred by small businesses, whilst we are re-assured by this move it is vital that refunds are made swiftly.
“Whilst these are all steps in the right direction, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture and we welcome the full review of business rates promised in the autumn as many businesses will require more than this short-term buffer to survive going forward.”