The Chancellor is facing calls to help businesses invest in next month’s Budget as the economy stalls amid Brexit uncertainty.
Two business lobby groups released their wish lists on Monday, with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) urging Philip Hammond “to deliver a Budget for shoppers” – aided by protecting its members from a “burden” of Government costs.
It said the current spending squeeze facing households from inflation outpacing wage growth could be eased by accelerating increases in the personal allowance and through not raising income tax rates.
The BRC said a looming £270m business rates rise faced by retailers next April should be suspended, allowing firms to invest the money in keeping prices down instead.
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Its call for taxes to be frozen has been echoed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
Its director general Adam Marshall said: “Action to slash the upfront costs faced by business, to incentiviseinvestment, and to improve mobile coverage and infrastructure would lead to a real boost to productivity, wages and trade.
“A Budget that prioritises goodies and giveaways rather than future-proofing the economy would be a dereliction of duty by the government as a whole,” he said.
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The BCC had earlier joined other business lobby groups in signing a joint letter urging the Government to secure an “urgent” transitional agreement with the EU to give firms greater certainty on a smooth Brexit.
The BRC argued the Chancellor had an opportunity to show that ministers understood the pressures.
Its chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “At a time of uncertainty for both the economy and the country, it is important we set ourselves up for success.
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“The cumulative burden of Government imposed costs has become acute. Indeed, September’s inflation figures mean retailers are faced with a £270m leap in their business rate tax bills alone next spring.
“With retailers’ margins being squeezed to their limit, this is money that could be better spent investing in keeping prices low for consumers, in local communities up and down the country and in developing a workforce which is fit for the future.
“Without the Chancellor’s intervention, the consequences for town centres and jobs will be even more keenly felt in the most vulnerable communities.”