With election fever and the leaders’ TV clashes gripping the nation, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has been working to ensure retailer issues remain high on the

political agenda.


Part of the ACS strategy is its Local Shops Pledge which has gained support from more than 80 election candidates.


The pledge states: "Local shops make a vital contribution to the national and local economy. Shops also provide a valued service at the heart of communities throughout this constituency.


"As a Member of Parliament, I will work to ensure that this contribution is recognised and supported."


Meanwhile, the ACS has examined the major issues affecting retailers this election and the views and policies of the three main parties. They include:


Business Rates Conservative MPs have led the fight against the new Business Rates, calling for a delay to the 2010 implementation of the rates revaluation. But they haven’t said what they would do now the new rates have started. Labour has put small business rate relief in place and raised thresholds as well as offering transitional rate relief to those with big rises in their rateable values. The Liberal Democrats favour giving power back to councils to set and levy business rates locally.


National Insurance the Conservatives will axe the 1% NICs increase set by the Chancellor for next April. Labour and the Lib Dems will keep it.


VAT There is wide speculation about VAT rises after the election. None of the main parties have ruled it out.


Fuel Tax None of the three main parties have strong reassurances for the industry on fuel tax. Labour is staggering the latest implementation of the fuel tax escalator in three stages, the Tories are ’looking into’ the possibility of a fuel duty stabiliser that allows tax levels to vary depending on oil prices, and the Lib Dems have mooted a possible lower fuel tax for those living in rural areas.


Supermarkets All three support creating a supermarket watchdog. They vary on what powers its should have.


Alcohol Labour promises more price and promotions restrictions if the industry does not act voluntarily to cut binge drinking, plus the continuation of the enforcement of licensing laws to curb underage sales. The Tories want harsher laws plus duty increases on strong white cider, beer and alcopops. The Lib Dems favour greater local discretion in setting policy and licensing and introducing minimum pricing.


Tobacco Labour will implement the tobacco display ban and will not look at licensing until at least 2015. The Tories oppose the display ban and want a ’review’ of the policy and favour tougher sanctions against the illegal trade and banning proxy purchasing. The Lib Dem leadership opposed the display ban as it passed through Parliament in 2009.