keir starmer

Source: The Labour Party

Labour leader Keir Starmer on page one of the manifesto

Replacing business rates and the apprenticeship levy while ensuring workers get a “genuine living wage” are among the pledges in the Labour Party’s election manifesto.

The business rates policy – first announced in April – would see the current system replaced with a new one, which raises the same revenue while levelling the playing field “between the high street and online giants”, according to the manifesto.

However, the document, published on Thursday, does not detail what the replacement system would be, with Labour already facing calls for more clarity on the issue.

It follows a manifesto pledge from the Lib Dems to replace business rates with a “commercial landowner levy”, while the Tories have said they will reduce the burden on the high street by gradually increasing the tax for online shopping warehouses.

“Retailers will want to see the details of what any replacement to our current system would look like,” said BRC CEO Helen Dickinson in response to Labour’s manifesto.


Labour also pledges to replace the apprenticeship levy with a “flexible growth and skills levy”, according to the document. ‘Skills England’, a body Labour will establish to “bring together business, training providers and unions with national and local government”, will consult on eligible courses for the new levy.

Dickinson said: “The BRC and our members have called for greater flexibility in the use of the current apprenticeship levy. Labour have hit the nail on the head when they say the current rigid rules ignore vital skills and training needed to access apprenticeships.

“The system must change, and a flexible growth and skills levy could provide just the answer retailers and their employees have been looking for.”


On pay, Labour will “make sure the minimum wage is a genuine living wage”, says the manifesto, by changing the remit of the independent Low Pay Commission to account for the cost of living.

It follows the Lib Dems’ manifesto pledge to establish a recommended genuine living wage.

Both parties also plan to scrap minimum wage age bands, which affect those under 21. It would mean “all adults are entitled to the same minimum wage, delivering a pay rise to hundreds of thousands of workers across the UK”, says Labour’s manifesto.


On crime, Labour is pledging to create a new specific offence for assaults on shopworkers. The measure was among planned legislation that was shelved with the dissolution of parliament in May. The Tories have also pledged tougher sentences for assaults against retail workers.

Labour has also pledged an extra 13,000 neighbourhood police and community PCSOs, and to “scrap the effective immunity for some shoplifting” that arises from the £200 threshold for police to investigate.

Dickinson said: “Rising rates of retail crime have been a blight on our high streets and retail centres. We welcome the pledge to create a new specific offence for assaulting a retail worker to protect our colleagues from both threats and violence.”


On health, Labour has pledged to “ban vapes from being branded and advertised to appeal to children to stop the next generation from becoming hooked on nicotine”, while also ensuring the next generation can never legally buy cigarettes.

The party is also “committed to banning advertising junk food to children along with the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to under-16s”.

In sustainability, Labour will restore the phase-out date of 2023 for new cars with internal combustion engines, as part of plans to reach net zero.

For communities, the party promises to strengthen the Post Office network and support the development of new services such as banking hubs to help reinvigorate the high street.

Elsewhere, for business Labour will cap corporation tax at 25% for the entire parliament, and retain permanent full expensing for capital investment and the annual investment allowance for small businesses.

“The Labour manifesto includes many of the right policies to help retail invest for the future, upskill its workforce, and play its part in growing the UK economy,” said Dickinson.

“From replacing the broken business rates system, to reforming the rigid apprenticeship levy, Labour are promising to make changes that will have a meaningful impact to retailers and their customers.

“Should they be elected on 4 July, it is vital they continue to engage with businesses on the finer details of many of these policies.”