In its submission to the Treasury ahead of the final Budget before the 2015 General Election, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has highlighted long-term business rates reform, tackling the £1.3bn annual cost of duty fraud, and minimising the negative impact of employment costs as the issues where local shops need to see immediate action.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Government has taken action in recent years to reduce the burden of business rates on our members, but this must be followed by wholesale reform that makes the business rates system fairer. The Chancellor could cement his commitment to small businesses by raising the small business rate relief threshold to £50,000, which would encourage growth and investment across ours and other sectors.”

ACS research shows that 94% of retailers have been negatively affected by employment costs over the last year. Calls from the Chancellor and Leader of the Opposition to second guess future minimum wage rates has dented business confidence in the objective minimum wage setting process led by the Low Pay Commission.

Lowman said: “Recent posturing on the minimum wage from politicians on all sides is unwelcome. We are calling for the retention of an independent Low Pay Commission to make recommendations on the minimum wage free from political pressure.”

The Joint Alcohol Anti Fraud Taskforce, of which ACS is a member, has been tasked with looking at ways to reduce duty fraud at the wholesale and retail level but there is more that could be done by central Government to minimise fraud through a freeze in the current duty rate.

Lowman continued: “There is a strong correlation between the increase in duty rates for alcohol and tobacco and the purchase of non duty paid products. Government should freeze the current duty rates and make tackling fraud a top priority of their alcohol strategy. Retailers who engage in duty fraud should lose their licence, it’s that simple.”