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Parties must prioritise our employees and property, say indie retailers

Leading indies are demanding that the next government protects them from increased taxes on their employees and properties and cuts red tape to enable them to focus on trading to drive the economic recovery.

Alan Hawkins, chief executive of the BHF-BSSA, the trade body which represents 2,000 fashion indies, said the party that wins the election should slash taxes on employment, tackle the planned 2.2% rise in the minimum wage and take a fair line on rate relief on empty properties. He said: “Retailers are critical in terms of leading the country out of a recession and the two biggest costs for them are people and property. The Labour rise in National Insurance (NI) should be abandoned immediately.”

“Some 12% of the high street is unlet at the moment. Any business should be allowed to have one property empty and exempt from rates. If indies have an empty property it’s because there is a problem, not because they are doing property manipulation.”

Tony Brown, chief executive of 11-store department store business Beales, agreed: “There are three main changes I’d like to see: a removal of the additional 1p on NI, postponement of the carbon token tax and a commitment that VAT will not be increased. It’s important that there is a continuation of the stamp duty relief for first-time buyers, which helps start-ups and independents and a commitment that there will be no increase in business rates.”

Other indies agreed that Labour’s proposed hike in NI would be crippling. Hilary Haresign, owner of occasionwear indie Snooty Frox in Harrogate, said: “NI contributions are a big issue. The rise in holiday pay entitlements has hit us hard too so I’d like to see a loosening on those sorts of legislations for small firms.”

Nicholas Brown, managing director of three-store independent department store group Browns in Yorkshire, said: “National Insurance is a big issue because it will increase if Labour win. We employ nearly 200 people so that would be a significant cost.”

The BHF-BSSA policy wish list

Labour’s rise in NI should be abandoned immediately
Maximum rise in minimum wage of 1%
Allow every business to have one empty property exempt from business rates
Lighter legislation for small businesses
Make indies exempt from carbon assessments and energy efficiency tests on buildings
Give indies access to local immunity sites for waste disposal

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