To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what recent steps his Department has taken to support the retail and wholesale industry.
Latest figures published the Office for National Statistics on 23rd January show that the value of retail sales (excluding automotive fuel) in 2014 totalled £339 billion. This is an all-time high for the UK and is £47 billion higher than 2010 in cash terms.
Retail is vitally important to local and national economies, which is why Government is actively working to help all retailers. In October 2013, BIS published "A Strategy for Future Retail"; it was developed in partnership with industry and built on the previous retail strategy. It comprises actions to address barriers to retail growth and performance, and to help retail prepare itself for the future.
The 2014 Autumn Statement announced a £1 billion package to reduce the cost of business rates, including continuing the 2% RPI multiplier cap and the doubling of the Small Business Rates Relief to April 2016, increasing the discount for smaller retail premises to £1,500 to March 2016, extending Transitional Rate Relief to March 2017 and changing the rules on when alterations to rateable values can only be backdated to. This £1 billion package builds on the £2.7 billion support package introduced at Autumn Statement 2013.
The Government is also supporting town centres across the country to revitalise their high streets. This includes banning CCTV for parking, allowing residents and firms to review parking policies, a freeze on parking penalty charges, a review of Business Improvement Districts, action on planning, and support for the digital high street and retail markets. This is on top of: £2.3 million to support the 27 Portas Pilots and 330 town teams across England, £10 million from the High Street Innovation Fund, and a £500, 000 loan fund for new Business Improvement Districts.
Retail and wholesale industries are able to benefit from the support that Government is offering to all sectors. My Rt hon Friend the Prime Minister recently announced the 25,000th Start Up Loan –over £129 million has been lent to people of all ages to start their own business. Government has created one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world and businesses have less regulation. There has been a £10 billion cumulative net saving to business over the course of this Parliament. Small businesses have better access to business advice and support. GREATbusiness.gov.uk brings together all Government advice, guidance and support in one place. And for those who are ready to really grow, the Business Growth Service brings together expert advice to improve and grow in one place for up to 20,000 firms each year with the ambition and capacity to grow.