Chancellor Rishi Sunak will offer shops in England grants of up to £6,000 to help them start trading again in this week's budget and may also be planning a tax on online retail.
The chancellor's grant scheme, to be set out on Wednesday (3rd March), is part of a wider £5bn plan to help pubs, restaurants and shops recover from a year of lockdowns.
It will see around 450,000 non-essential stores eligible for “restart grants” of up to £6,000 per site. Hospitality venues, leisure and gym facilities will be able to apply for up to £18,000 under the scheme. The funds will be distributed by local authorities from April and replace the current monthly grant system.
Sunak told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s been an incredibly difficult year for our high streets. But soon shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to open their doors once again, and we’re providing the support they need to get them through, get them back on their feet and get the tills ringing once again.”
He added: “Our local businesses have been hit hard, which is why we went big and went early with a multi-billion-pound package of support. There’s now light at the end of the tunnel and this £5bn will ensure our high streets can open with optimism.”
However, the British Retail Consortium has warned the grants will provide only “temporary relief” and urged an extension of the current business rates holiday.
Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap for exiting lockdown, non-essential retail is expected to reopen from 12th April.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Sunak is also considering ways to tax online retailers more heavily, including a new “green tax” for online deliveries. However, the newspaper reported he had decided against a windfall tax on excess profits for internet firms. The taxes are expected to be unveiled in a series of consultations on 23rd March.
A Treasury source told the newspaper: "The idea of an online sales tax is being looked at as part of the business rates review. Responses to the consultation are being considered in the round, but the chancellor is cognisant of the need to level up the playing field between the high street and online taxation."