Will the government live up to its pre-election promises?
Now the dust has settled after the General Election, there are two issues I hope will continue to have some momentum through the corridors of power.
Last year the coalition government revealed in the Autumn Statement that it would undertake a structural review of business rates. The industry now wants the Conservative majority government to continue to make business rates a priority, not just a headline.
The British Retail Consortium has taken the bit between its teeth post-election and has already put a call out to ensure the new Government doesn't forget its 2014 pledges. A spokesman said: "As the evidence review proceeds, ministers can stand by the aspiration that the system is no longer fit for purpose by setting out a vision of the future of business taxation, one that incorporates the role of rates within the framework.
"That would demonstrate the Government's determination to play its role in the necessary long-term planning to revitalise our town centres and bring new ways to shop to the high street."
Dreams' boss Mike Logue, Boux Avenue owner Theo Paphitis, DFS chief executive Ian Filby and Karen Millen boss Mike Shearwood have also told Retail Week that they want the incoming government to prioritise a business rates review.
The BRC has also called for "wider policy-making" that's based on clarity, certainty and transparency – helping to deliver the right climate for retail to prosper in the next five years. That sounds great in principal but since when has there ever been certainty in the retail sector on any level or any length of time? We all thought that a rates revaluation every 5 years was a certainty and look where that assumption got us.
My second issue is the talk surrounding the "Powerhouse of the North". Chancellor George Osborne is to promise a "revolution" by handing cities devolved powers over housing, transport, planning and policing. In his first key first post-election speech in Manchester today, he is expected to say other cities should see it as a blueprint for city-regional devolution. A Cities Devolution Bill should be in the Queen's Speech later this month.
In 2014, leaders of Greater Manchester's 10 councils agreed to the area's first mayoral election. An interim mayor, who will hold the post until 2017 will be elected this summer. So, we have the regional political will behind it but I still haven't seen very much evidence that the general North West public have bought into the vision. We could see very low polling unless that vision is translated outside of business circles. Public apathy is not a great start to a "northern revolution" is it?
Despite my misgivings and if all goes according to plan, as from 2017 the new mayor would lead a Greater Manchester Combined Authority, chair its meetings and allocate responsibilities to a cabinet made up of the leaders of each of the 10 councils. Councils in Greater Manchester currently control about £5bn of public money each year. This deal is expected to give them control over a further £2bn.
Further government plans that include the Northern Powerhouse aim to close the economic gap between North and South, so let's hope the further £18bn that Mr Osborne has mentioned materialises to give this process a real chance of addressing the imbalance and give the Powerhouse something to actually work with.
I have no doubt the chancellor will push through his vision for Manchester but it would be rather ironic if it was political will of the south pushing northern voters down a path they are not sure they want to be on. Don't forget Prescott's visions for regional assemblies and elected city mayors that were rejected by the majority of voters back in 2012.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is the latest big name to call on the government to extend the business rates holiday beyond April 2021.
The retail and hospitality sectors are mobilising the troops with dire warnings that thousands of business are at risk if the rates holiday isn’t extended beyond April 2021.
The pandemic has led to more than 50,000 extra appeals being lodged against business rates by Scottish firms alone.