An end to crippling business rents, tackling the post-Brexit/pandemic skills gap and action on high utility bills are among the issues independent drinks retailers want the next government – of whatever persuasion – to tackle first after the UK general election on July 4.

These concerns have been added to VAT, red tape and retail crime, highlighted by indies earlier this week.

Jefferson Boss, co-owner of Starmore Boss in Sheffield, said he wants to see a cap on commercial rents in certain locations.

“The damage to the high street from high levels of unoccupied buildings will need to be addressed,” he said.

“Rental prices could have a fixed ceiling on a pound per square foot in demarked zones in cities or town centres, stopping private landlords from escalating rents and forcing businesses out.

“Rate freezes and rate reductions on renting multiple sites could be a way to encourage expansion of existing businesses.

“Better urban planning with more emphasis on both mixed housing and retail would be welcome.

“Encouraging independents back into city centre spaces, as is happening in Sheffield with the likes of the Leah’s Yard development – our friends Hop Hideout are moving there! – are great examples of reimagining how are city centres could be.”

Boss also urged the drinks industry to be ready to participate in any future moves to tackle alcohol-related harm in society – what he called a “conversation our industry doesn’t want to have”.

He added: “It might not come in this term but at some point a responsible government will look at the money it spends on alcohol-related diseases and, has happened with the tobacco industry, will want to be seen to tackle the issue.

“We need to be ready with some answers and how we can be part of this.”

Boss said he was hopeful that the expected Labour victory would create a more stable economic environment in which to do business.

“Although it’s clear there isn’t the same level of optimism as there was in the Blair years, I think the (presumably!) incoming Starmer government can create a more adult and business-like environment that has a knock-on effect in stimulating consumer spending, with the confidence that there will be no economic shocks down the line.”

Mark Wrigglesworth, owner of the Good Wine Shop chain in west London, said one immediate issue for any new administration was to make the duty easement on wine permanent, to “take away the threat that hangs over the industry from this shocking proposal”.

The temporary measure – which assumes that all wines between 11.5% abv and 14.5% abv are 12.5% abv for duty purposes – is due to end in February.

“The red tape that this will add, not to mention the cost, is eye-watering and will only further damage fragile retail sales,” said Wrigglesworth

He also wanted to see steps to tackle the skills shortage in hospitality and wine retail.

“Without staff, how can companies ever hope to get the economic growth every political party tells us we need to pay for better public services?” he said.

“We need immigration to support growth in the wine trade and beyond, and a denial of this will continue to push up wage inflation, which only feeds general inflation and will keep interest rates high – a horrible vicious circle.

“Retail crime continues to be an increasing problem and significant investment in local community policing to stamp on this and support small local businesses and communities would be very welcome.”

Krishan Rajput, owner of Stirchley Wines & Spirits in Birmingham, said cheaper utility bills were a priority.

“The fundamental difference to us as a retail business would be to see the next government encourage utility companies to greatly reduce their charges to their customers, both for business and the general public,” he said, “putting money back in their pockets and hopefully boosting consumer spending confidence.

“Also, they need to stop supermarkets deep price-cutting and giving alcohol away. Nobody wins in the long-term.”