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Theo Paphitis blasts Government: 'You're useless and do nothing for business'

Theo Paphitis at his retail HQ (Theo Paphitis Retail Group/PA)
Theo Paphitis at his retail HQ (Theo Paphitis Retail Group/PA)

Theo Paphitis, the former Dragons' Den tycoon, has blasted the Government as made up of “bloody useless politicians who do nothing” — and said the retail sector had been let down.

Paphitis, who owns Ryman’s, Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue, warned: “When I meet a politician, I won’t listen to their bullshit because for quite a while now we’ve seen very little competence in our leaders.

“Not all politicians are lazy — some do put a shift in, but competence is another thing. They are more worried about their party than the economy and the country.

“The Tories have given me no reason whatsoever to even think about voting for them.”

The retail tycoon, who previously donated to then-Brexit secretary David Davis, added: “I hate people saying ‘ministers have got to give us this or that’ — I’m not looking for subsidies. But I am looking for commercial initiatives by the Government that help small businesses — it’s a win-win situation as when small businesses prosper, the Exchequer receives more income.

"It’s shameful. The Government is not doing the things that matter to the economy. It cannot produce one iota of evidence that it's helping entrepreneurs.”

Paphitis, whose businesses span 360 stores and more than 4,000 employees, particularly criticised the business rates system — a tax on domestic properties such as shops, offices, and pubs — which he believes unfairly hits bricks and mortar businesses. Online retailers only face a much smaller tax on their warehouses.

The former Millwall chairman has just invested in a new Ryman’s app to bring more footfall to his stores: customers can design personalised greeting cards on the app and pick them up from a Ryman’s store an hour later for under £3.

“You have to be imaginative - the High Street has no God-given right to be subsised or survive - let’s not be sentimental about this,” he said. “But we do need a level-playing field. The Government is allowing a huge part of the economy to go through without tax. It says, ‘the economy needs more money - we’ve got the NHS and social care to pay for’ - and of course that’s true. So collect the right tax from the right people.

"How can we have so much of the retail economy being taxed at a much, much lower rate, and coming from a different tax jurisdiction?” Paphitis added: “I’m just a simple, humble shopkeeper, with dyslexia — but I can see in this country right now the emperor’s got no clothes on and is swanning around as if it’s wearing the finest suit and done the most wonderful job in living history.

“Politicians are delusional — all those clever people need to do their job and sort out tax.” Paphitis also said the Ulez and other road strategies were “destroying businesses”.

Paphitis also singled out London mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London for criticism. He said ULEZ and other road strategies were “destroying businesses,” adding: “All the traffic initiatives mean trying to get product into stores has become a lot more expensive over the last five years.

“Then there’s waste removal, man hours lost to traffic - all those costs have to be passed onto the consumer, and that’s one reason why so many retail businesses have shut down in the last few years.”

Paphitis will be one of more than 50 business tycoons and investors speaking at SME XPO, the Evening Standard’s upcoming event uniting more than 5,000 entrepreneurs and senior business leaders, on 23 and 24 April. Experts will tackle topics stretching from AI to exports, turning a planet-friendly profit to writing a pitchdeck.

Paphitis added he is advising scaling-up businesses to be cautious right now: “don’t be too bullish, watch your cash. I do not see consumer confidence growing in the next 18 months. It will come back — but don’t be over-optimistic right now. Hopefully, the Government will start to concentrate on jobs as opposed to themselves, and we might have half a chance.”