ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has expressed disappointment over the Chancellor’s lack of action regarding Business Rates relief revealed in yesterday’s Budget. ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "He should have gone further to make the rate relief automatic for all those entitled and to increase the thresholds to ensure that

more local shops would benefit."

Commenting on alcohol and tobacco duty, he added: "Every penny increase in duty on alcohol and tobacco harms local shops and drives more people into the illegal black market.

"The World Health Organization acknowledges that high taxation policies like that pursued in the UK will lead to over half of the tobacco consumed here being obtained illegally and non-duty paid by the end of the decade. This means a major loss of income to the exchequer and a threat to thousands of legitimate businesses; it also means that objectives to reduce smoking in the population will be undermined. It is time for a full debate on the implications of the constant tobacco tax grab."

The ACS also warned that the decision to increase the minimum wage for adults by 2.2% to £5.93 would threaten job creation in the retail sector.

Lowman said: "Throughout his Budget speech the Chancellor stressed the need to support the economic recovery and not to threaten jobs. We know that when faced with increases in the minimum wage retailers will cut back on jobs and hours, so we think that this is an ill judged and mistimed decision.

"We argued strongly that there should be no increase in the minimum wage this year. This increase follows a series of Ministerial commitments to deliver consistent increases over the next five years, which is a political promise that local shops will struggle to afford."

The ACS added that information that the Government was accepting this recommendation of the Low Pay Commission was contained in the full budget report.