Digital literacy skills must be on Budget agenda, says BRC

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is proposing a series of targeted measures to support the retail industry via a plan submitted to UK chancellor Philip Hammond last week – including demands for a greater focus on digital literacy.

Ahead of Hammond’s inaugural Autumn Budget on 22 November, the trade association’s ‘Helping Shoppers Budget’ document calls on the chancellor to take action to support consumer spending and encourage private sector investment.

The submission includes a call for the government to work with the retail industry to tackle low levels of digital literacy and digital confidence through a digital inclusion retail sector deal.

According to the BRC, retailers have identified “a clear need to develop broader digital literacy skills and build digital confidence across the workforce, from boardroom to shop floor”.

It says that by leveraging the industry’s workforce, retailers can raise levels of digital literacy while supporting the government’s target of a digital economy that works for everyone.

“Global competitiveness requires investment in ubiquitous, up-to-date digital infrastructure,” says the document.

“Great strides have been made by retailers and government. However, the coming years will see an inexorable increase in digital traffic and data must be able to flow at the volume, speed and reliability required to meet future demands of businesses and consumers. Treating digital connectivity as a core utility will ensure the benefits are universally felt.”

Another tech-specific measure it calls for is for the UK to stay in European IT systems for customs and transit post Brexit, and invest in IT to get the implementation of the Customs Declaration System right in early 2019.

Other key arguments in the document call on the government to freeze the business rates multiplier in April 2018, to keep the cost of living down for consumers by not increasing income tax rates for the majority of taxpayers, and to provide additional flexibility in how the Apprenticeship Levy funds can be spent.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said: “At a time of uncertainty for both the economy and the country, it’s important we set ourselves up for success.”

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