High street could ‘collapse’ over summer, Usdaw warns

Finance

Shop workers union Usdaw has warned that the high street faces a “cliff-edge” if the government lifts legal and financial safeguards at the end of the month.

According to measures set out in March, business rates relief will be reduced by a third, and landlords will be allowed to evict commercial tenants for unpaid rent.

Writing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis claimed independent shops would be forced to “scale back”, “cut jobs” or “collapse completely”.

“Measures in the March Budget have not provided retailers with enough time or support to tackle the core issues facing the industry or plan their recovery out of the pandemic,” he wrote.

READ MOREUsdaw: 75% of retail workers “felt anxious” going into work last year

“Usdaw is calling for the government to adopt an urgent recovery plan for the retail sector.”

The union wants Sunak to maintain full business rates relief until April 2022 and introduce an online sales tax to reduce the pressure on bricks-and-mortar retailers.

It calculated that a one per cent levy on online sales could fund a business rates reduction of 20 per cent.

With stores collectively owing around £2.9 billion in unpaid rents, Usdaw also proposed extending the business evictions ban “beyond June”.

Last month, the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) called for the same measures in a meeting with business minister Paul Scully.

The organisation believes three in 10 landlords are ready to evict their commercial tenants if they cannot make up lost rent.

Finance

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