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Osborne urged to renew business rates pledge in July budget

The fashion industry has urged chancellor George Osborne to use the emergency budget in July to renew his commitment to reviewing the business rates system by early 2016.

Suppliers have also welcomed business secretary Sajid Javid’s pledge to tackle late payments owed to small businesses with a new enterprise bill.

On May 16, Osborne said he would take the unusual step of presenting a second budget so he can begin delivering on commitments made in the Conservative party manifesto.

These include an income tax-free minimum wage, additional free childcare for working parents, the creation of 3 million apprenticeships by the end of 2020 and a business rates review.

In his last budget on March 18, Osborne said the review would be completed by the time of the next budget in 2016.

Michael Shalders, co-founder of distributor Love Brands, which has offices in London, said: “The business rates issue was quite small in relation to wider issues in the last vote-winning budget so hopefully now it will get more of a mention. 

“Our business is like a million other small businesses in that we have a problem with rates and rent. We’ve moved twice to chase cheaper rates.”

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: “It’s vital for the government to reiterate a commitment to the review, to keep momentum going, but we also want to know how it is going to translate into reform and when. Five years is a long time on the high street.”

However, one fashion retail analyst said: “The government wants to encourage business but they make so much money from business rates. There have been a lot of concessions made for smaller businesses, but these are not going to impact the larger multiples.”

Yesterday business secretary Javid pledged to bring forward an enterprise bill to cut £10bn of red tape for businesses over the next five years.

A key measure in the bill will be the creation of a Small Business Conciliation Service to help settle disputes between small and large businesses, particularly relating to late payment practices.

Responding to the announcement, one fashion supplier told Drapers: “Anything that helps smaller businesses is a good thing, as they are strapped for cash. The big guys negotiate generous long payment terms and the smaller businesses suffer, but you can’t turn down the order so it’s a bit of a catch-22 situation.”

The government has not yet given a timescale for introducing the bill.

This week Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper distanced herself from former leader Ed Miliband’s business policies. She said the party must consult more closely with business leaders in future, to avoid being seen as “anti-growth and ultimately anti-worker”.

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