Alastair Darling is expected to deliver the last Budget of this Parliament later

this month. According to the ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores), local shops have called on the Chancellor to support them to continue to serve their community and contribute to the economy.

The ACS said it had written a letter to the Chancellor outlining the steps that must be taken to support local shops. The issues for immediate attention included:

• Freeze the duty rates on alcohol and tobacco products.
• Resist political influences in setting National Minimum Wage.
• Reconsider the increase in National Insurance Contributions, which is essentially a tax on jobs.
• Increase Small Business Rates Relief thresholds to allow for more important local businesses to benefit.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "Local shops can survive the recession but need support to succeed. The government’s decision to increase employment costs from early on in the economic recovery has the potential to suffocate the development of businesses.

"The Chancellor needs to support local shops further to absorb the increases in the 2010 business rates revaluation, which has resulted in unfair increases for many of our members.

"Duty rates on alcohol and tobacco products must be frozen. Continual cost increases on these products have fuelled the expansion of the illicit trade. Retailers sell these age restricted products responsibly and through no fault of their own lose trade to the black market that is uncontrolled and presents real dangers to communities."