High Streets Update

I have received an update from the Government about their plans to support local shops and businesses:

Helping local firms and shops with business rates

As part of our long-term economic plan, we are cutting taxes for small businesses to help them create more jobs, so that more families have the security of a regular pay packet. That’s why we have introduced a series of measures to help local firms with their business rate bills:

• Small shops, pubs and businesses with a Rateable Value of less than £50,000 will receive £1,000 off their rates bill for the next two years.
• The annual indexation increase in 2014-15 bills is being capped at 2%;
• Businesses will be allowed to pay over 12 instalments instead of 10, helping all businesses with their cash flow;
• The doubling of small business rate relief, originally introduced in 2010, will continue for another year;
• Local firms taking on an extra property will keep their small business rate relief for an extra year, helping small firms expand;
• To help get empty shops back into use, we are introducing a new reoccupation relief that halves rates for 18 months for businesses taking on a long-term empty shop.

These measures will make a huge difference to many of the essential small shops and local traders we find in our town centres across the country.

The £1,000 discount for local shops, restaurants and pubs will be implemented by local billing authorities using their Localism Act powers to levy new business rate discounts, and funded by central government. We have today published some practical guidance to councils to help them ensure that all eligible firms receive their discounts.

The guidance specifies certain types of business that will not be eligible for this tax relief such as payday lenders, betting shops and pawn brokers. The discount can be used on top of the other measures to reduce business rates that will come into effect in April.

Local authorities will be reporting back their estimates of the number of firms that will benefit in their area. When I have that local data, I will send this to colleagues.

Further reforms to support high streets

In addition, we have announced further measures to help town centres, including:
• stopping over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable parking practices; www.gov.uk/government/consultations/local-authority-parking
• a review of Business Improvement Districts;
• consultations on new permitted development rights to help get empty and redundant buildings get back into use;
• clarity on retail land reviews;
• a call for evidence on retail red tape;
Further details on the town centres package can be found in the press notice and supporting documents: www.gov.uk/government/news/eric-pickles-launches-package-of-support-for-local-shops.

Championing new technology

On 10 January, we announced a multi-million pound competition seeking innovative technology solutions in retailing, logistics, and traffic management to make our high streets more attractive to citizens. This supports the Government’s aim to promote the use of technology to modernise town centres. By exploiting new technology, town centres can adapt to better meet the changing requirements of business, visitor and consumers. More details can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/news/8-million-technology-boost-for-uk-high-streets

Working with business

The Future High Streets Forum brings together businesses, academics and local leaders to look at the challenges facing our town centres and to work with councils to build on what Government has started. The Forum’s membership has been expanded recently to embrace representatives from the hospitality, leisure, food and services sectors – all of which play a major role in the success of our high streets. We have also created a new sub-group focusing on digital high streets, chaired by Argos, which will provide a platform to consider relevant technology-related initiatives, and identify and share best practice.

Brandon Lewis MP

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3 Comments

  1. Antisthenes
    Posted January 30, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    All very laudable and a very politically expedient thing for the Conservatives to do in the run up to the 2015 elections. However does this not smack of Canute trying to stem the tide we have of course tried and failed to keep the unworkable working many times before to no avail. We tried it with ship building, coal mining, British leyland and others. New cheaper and better ways came along faced with which the government did not allow these new things to be embraced or ditch that which no longer worked as quickly as they should have and bow to the inevitable but attempted to shore them up which in the end proved futile and costly. The high street has become another dinosaur as what it offers can be got more conveniently and cheaper by other means and no amount of subsidy or tinkering will in the end save it. It may give it a short term boost but will the cost of doing so be worth it? I very much doubt it. The high street was evolving to cope despite local council restrictions and blinkered thinking. Those businesses that were taking over the vacant spaces were maybe not as aesthetically attractive or traditional to the High street some of which you now wish to deter at least were helping to keep parts of it alive. Building on that and allowing changes of use that local councils seems loathed to do for the rest of it can make the High Street vibrant and economically sound again.

  2. alan jutson
    Posted January 31, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    All very laudable efforts I am sure, but it all sounds so confusing with all sorts of time limits, qualifications, and I guess lots of paperwork.

    One very simple method to increase footfall in Town centres is to allow free parking.
    No not suggesting all day, so that people can abuse the situation instead of using Station car parks (why are they so expensive)

    But a free period of up to 2 or 4 hours would help, and at least be a start !

    Wokingham Council are you listening, because this could be a simple way of attempting to improve you so called footfall in the Town, rather than borrowing £100 million to build on the Towns open recreational space whilst at the same time reducing car parks !

  3. lojolondon
    Posted January 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Good news, John. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Labour intentionally damaged the high street in a deal with the biggest supermarkets, who promised ‘low inflation’, ‘employment’ and freeby buildings for councils in return for planning permission to build warehouses all over the country.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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