The British Retail Consortium has warned the Chancellor that the “economic health of our nation is intrinsicly locked into the vibrancy of the retail industry” ahead of the budget this morning.

In an open letter to George Osbourne, chief executive of the BRC Helen Dickinson said that, just as the retailer industry helped customers during the recovery by keeping prices low, retail will support Government to deliver its programmes. However, she added that this is against the background of a “seriously significant” rise in the cost of business.

She added: “The cost of the National Living Wage and Apprenticeship Levy policies and the additional costs of an unreformed business rates system is over £14 billion to the retail industry over the next four years.

“The impact on local jobs and consequent social cost could be significant, especially in vulnerable areas. As they stand, these policies together greatly risk accelerating outcomes we seek to avoid so it is essential we make these policies work for Government, business and the consumer and get safely off this burning platform.”

She called on Mr Osbourne to introduce fundamental reform of the business rates system, going “beyond plans to devolve rate setting, which do not address its key problems”.

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