Local councils and their Mayors will have the power to set Sunday trading hours in their area and a new compulsory national living wage of £7.20 will come into effect next year, it was announced in the 2015 summer budget.
Delivering the first all-Tory budget in almost 20 years at the House of Commons, chancellor George Osborne also said corporation tax will fall to 19% in 2017, followed by a cut to 18% in 2020.
Industry bodies including the Confederation of British Industry and the British Council of Shopping Centres have centered their comments on the Sunday trading hour’s announcement.
CBI director general John Cridland said: “This is a double-edged budget for business. Firms will welcome measures to balance the books and boost investment, but they will be concerned by legislating for wage increases they may not be able to deliver.
“Firms have been unwavering in their support for the chancellor’s deficit reduction plans and will welcome the clarity that the new fiscal rules provide. Other standout measures include making the Annual Investment Allowance permanent at £200,000, which the CBI called for, as well much-needed investment in our roads network.
“The further reduction in corporation tax is a welcome surprise but tax reductions for employers don’t appear to match the businesses most affected by a rise to £7.20 in the national minimum wage next April – a 7% increase. Small shops, hospitality firms and care providers are the businesses that will face real challenges in affording the national living wage. Delivering higher wages can only be done sustainably by boosting productivity. Bringing politics into the Low Pay Commission is a bad idea.”
“The CBI supports a higher skilled, higher wage economy, but legislating for a living wage does not reflect businesses’ ability to pay. This is taking a big gamble that the labour market can absorb year-on-year increases of an average of 6%.
“Firms want to play their part in training up more apprentices but an apprentice levy is a blunt tool. A volunteer army is always better than conscription but the CBI will work with the Government to make the best effect of this measure.
BCSC chief executive John Coyne said: “Any review of Sunday trading is clearly a positive step towards ensuring legislation is aligned to the changing consumer patterns and retail business models that continue to develop in our sector. Clearly we need to wait to see the detail of the proposals and the means by which they will be devolved but, as the authoritative voice for the retail property industry at large, we fully support plans to consider the opportunity that extended Sunday trading can bring at a local level.
“In particular, we are keen to see how reconsidered Sunday trading could serve to strengthen and drive trade in town centres. We know from our monthly footfall monitor data that shopper numbers grow out of office hours and, therefore, greater flexibility on Sunday trading may provide great benefit to town centre trade. Protecting the vitality of town centres, and their position at the heart of local communities, must be central in the decision making process. We will continue to work with officials, politicians and importantly local decision makers to ensure this remains front of mind and to guide the development of policy that will strengthen our sector, extending its role as a major contributor to the UK economy.”
Chief executive of the British Property Federation Melanie Leech said: “The way we shop has changed beyond all recognition in recent years and Government has struck the right balance between being alive to that and ensuring any further liberalisation of shopping hours is well managed. Longer hours will not suit all places, but equally should not hold other places back. Devolving the decision to a local level and those who know what will be best for their area, in this instance, therefore makes perfect sense.”
KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “I welcome the prospect of longer shop opening hours on Sundays for the larger stores. To offer a true Omni-Channel experience, retailers ought to have the freedom to have all channels open without restrictions to deliver what their customers want. The market and consumer demand will determine the hours.”
Hammerson chief executive David Atkins said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today setting out plans to extend Sunday trading hours, which will boost the economy and create thousands of new jobs. With nearly 2,000 stores across Hammerson’s regional portfolio of UK shopping centres and retail parks, we believe that the relaxation of opening hours will offer retailers more flexibility and give consumers greater power to choose where and when they shop. The reforms will also bring Britain into line with other international retail markets and address the imbalance between physical and online retailing.”