The future of the High Street

The changes to rates has once again highlighted the rapid changes on UK High Streets. Large centres with numerous coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and the main multiples are usually trading successfully. The Metro Centre, Oxford Street, Bicester Village, Meadowhall and the other well established shopping centres are flourishing. People want a good range of shops, good brands, and the capacity to make a half day or a day of it with stops for food and drink. Big new shopping centres like Westfield are still being added, with the redevelopment of Birmingham Bullring and other leading City retail destinations.

In contrast many of the smaller High Streets are suffering from the attack of internet shopping offering keener prices, and destination shopping offering more choice. Many a small butcher, baker, fishmonger and green grocer has given up the struggle to compete with the volumes, prices and freshness of the leading supermarkets. In their turn the large supermarkets are under strong competitive pressure from the discounters, who target a narrower range of popular products so they can use their dominant volume in these items to command great prices from suppliers.

The advent of new or expanded and revamped destination shopping centres, and more space for the main discounters has intensified the bricks and mortar shopping competition. The large food retailers have added to the complexity of their tasks by opening a range of local smaller stores, seeking to tap into the narrow range essentials that many people buy daily or several times a week at a convenience store near their homes.

The changes to rate valuations seek to mirror the changing fortunes, but some think they throw up anomalies. The aim is to reduce or remove business rates from small independents, to cut the tax on those many shopping centres with falling revenues or weaker margins, whilst boosting the tax on the successful destination shopping areas. We will find out how successful this has been in the debate that has been unleashed by the new rating schedules.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

73 Comments

  1. Newmania
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    For the last year we have had a manufactured consumer boom of the sort one used to get pre-election. This was designed to disguise the Brexit dip until after article 50 (Carney cancelled normalising interest rates and the government dropped Osbourne’s plans for retrenchment .)
    We are at end of the line for borrowing. Investment confidence has never recovered and as we see form Vauxhall, real economic blows are starting to land .We are now not only facing cuts but taxes are growing fast .Business rates and a big Council tax rise are part of this Brexit picture
    The structural deficit was going to be tough to correct anyway but with Brexit poisoning growth, and economic planning used for short term political ends, it is much worse.
    This is what centrist Andrew Rawnsley had to say …..
    …..senior Tory confided his anxiety that public disorder could break out in the next 24 months, …….More and deeper spending cuts …..rising taxes. ….crunch on living standards……..I now think it not at all unreasonable to worry that there will be blood on the streets.

    What will the guilty men say ?

    PS Excuse me for intruding into your fantasy world

    Reply What unpleasant nonsense. Growth up, investment up, jobs up. The UK has moderate state borrowing levels and no need to retrench. Austerity is the EU’s model

    • Anonymous
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Of course, the EU is just perfect. Not a disaster zone at all.

      Record numbers of Eurozone refugees are stampeding to these shores before the drawbridge is lifted because of what exactly ???

    • Richard1
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      The GM / Peugeot deal has nothing to do with Brexit. If Vauxhall is a competitive car producer it will survive if not it will go. It is clear there are some on the Remain side who will ignore any good news (eg the continued growth and investment in complete contradiction of the predictions of Project Fear) but attribute any business closure or cost cutting, or any negative economic indicator in future to Brexit. Probably all crimes in future will be blamed on Brexit, maybe bad weather also?

      • Ian Wragg
        Posted February 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Not necessarily true Richard. It’s 3 times more expensive to make someone redundant in France and Germany than in the UK so efficientcy has nothing to do with it.
        The French and Germans won’t buy Vauxhalls so I bet it will be closed

        The only way is to boycott PSA brands.

      • hefner
        Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        So, you cannot understand why a drop in the value of the pound can make UK companies the values of which are linked to the pound have become more attractive to $ or € predators?
        Why do you think there is a record number of tourists visiting the UK?

        • Richard1
          Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Why has the drop in £ made the European assets of GM – of which Vauxhall is a small part – cheaper for Peugeot?

          • hefner
            Posted February 22, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

            Please check, all Vauxhall’s assets are quoted in GBP. But you are right regarding Opel’s assets quoted in euros.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Newmania, your mania about the EU makes you appear like some sad figure who chunters away a load of nonsense.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      “What will the guilty men say ?”

      Well you’ve just spoken, Newmania and you seem to be in complete denial about your part in Brexit.

      Your type kept rubbing the ‘oiks’ noses in uncontrolled immigration and forgot to take their vote away *before* you started insulting them.

      There were always going to be consequences in a democratic country and you were alerted of it by me and my type over many years.

    • eeyore
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Interesting how Remain is turning into a kind of religion, marked by incapacity to engage with reality, aggressive fundamentalism, conspiracy theorising, unshakeable affectations of moral and intellectual superiority and gleeful predictions of eternal damnation for the wicked.

      Anyone who’s been stuck in a room with a fundamentalist fanatic will know you can’t argue with such people. Just head for the door.

      • turboterrier
        Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        @ eeyore

        Interesting how Remain is turning into a kind of religion, marked by incapacity to engage with reality, aggressive fundamentalism, conspiracy theorising, unshakeable affectations of moral and intellectual superiority and gleeful predictions of eternal damnation for the wicked.

        Sounds like that lovely comment also identifies the renewable lobby to a T.

        Totally right on both counts.

      • hefner
        Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        I am sorry but everything you have just written could also be applied to, not to the majority of Leavers, but to a much smaller (I hope) group of Beleavers.

        Leave has won, the big majority of both Leavers and Remainers have accepted it. Why do you go on wiping bad feelings?

        Or is it a game? If it is, it is sad, sad, very sad.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Newmania

      It doesn’t matter what happens. If it’s bad it will be attributed to Brexit. If it’s good then it will be despite Brexit. You can’t win. The rise in council taxes has been on the cards for years. Cuts to social services and other services the councils provide have been hit and there has been no rise in council tax for years. Every government for the last 40 years or so has known about the baby boomer years and yet the inevitable consequences have been ignored about providing for them when they get old. The pigeons have come home to roost and we will all pay for it through prices in the high street rising. If not this then a penny on income tax is the only way but only if it is spent on social care for the elderly and not frittered away on some vanity scheme. Care for the old is a real problem and one that cannot be ignored. Blaming it all on Brexit is farcical.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Growth up, investment up, jobs up as you say. This is despite the essentially socialist lefty drivel that May and Hammond have been pushing.

      Their agenda of ever more state, compulsory workers on company boards, gender pay reporting, no cuts in red tape, no move to cheap energy, endless waste on vanity projects and almost everywhere, an NHS rationing incompetently, still higher taxes all over the place and centrally dictated wage controls is hugely harmful.

      Stamp duty (turnover taxes) at up to 15% is idiotic and they are still ratting on Osborne’s IHT promise, it is still 40% of everything over just £325K, (in the USA you get over $10M for a couple before tax).

      This plus dysfunctional banks that pay a fraction of a % in interest to depositors (if that – negative in real terms) and yet still seem totally unable to lend on sensible margins and terms to sound borrowers, with good plans and strong security.

      Oh for some competent “the state is the problem not the solution”, lower taxes & more deregulation Conservatives instead of these dithering, wet, pathetic socialists in charge.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      We are at end of the line for borrowing. Investment confidence has never recovered and as we see form Vauxhall, real economic blows are starting to land .

      Why are we at the end of the line for borrowing? Strikes me money no longer has any real meaning – 0.25% base rate, QE, Help to Buy to prop up the housing market … I’ve been expecting a bust since 2002 but it hasn’t come yet – even with the banking crisis. Ever increasing debt seems to be the new reality. Quite what happens when debt interest reaches, say, 150 billion a year – who knows. Default?

      I wonder if PSA want to buy GM’s European business so they get factories in the UK to supply the UK with the many Citroens and Peugeots that we buy – without having to worry about tariffs.

    • DaveM
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      ?????????????

      I really must visit your world. It bears no resemblance to anywhere else I’ve ever been. But I suppose that area of Sussex has been like another planet for many years now.

      No one likes cuts or tax rises but your reaction on this website and elsewhere is verging on the hysterical.

    • Mark B
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      BREXIT has nothing to do with any of what you say. We have not left the EU and, despite everything, we are not Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or the Baltics. All are still in the EU and part of the Euro.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted February 22, 2017 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      The problem with economic growth lies in the future and has nothing to do with Brexit, which should be beneficial as long as we maximise free trade.

      The worry is that some of our current growth is fuelled by debt, which the Bank of England’s crazily loose monetary policy is fuelling. Already, inflation has risen from zero to 2% in just over 6 months.

      If monetary policy is not tightened, inflation will reach 5% by the end of next year. The longer the task is postponed, the bigger will be the rise in base rate needed and the greater the number of repossessions.

  2. margaret
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    People will need to buy and others need to sell at a profit for their efforts. I have previously mentioned another type of communal production which Monty Don highlighted in his gardens of the world series of programmes .Small productive gardens in every back street of Cuba demonstrates how this need will be satisfied somehow.

    Change in these areas is ongoing . Parking remains a problem in some city areas which strongly dissuades me from venturing into the crowds. Opening times in these Cities should be more flexible to avoid the 9-5 rush. especially the more specialist shops , such as music shops whose clientele usually know what they want, rather than simply browse. The day could stretch from lunch time until 8 pm in these cases.

    Shopping Centres are still attracting customers , however the same few groups take the space in these satellite organisations .I would love to go down to my town centre to find the occasional single privately owned restaurant which was of excellent quality . I believe there are a few in Manchester. Nights out in ‘Town’ were a special treat at weekends in my youth. Surely someone with a bit of capital could use their imagination to create a quality meeting place for all ages where all interested could enjoy a night out rather than travel miles and miles.

    Some small local shops still thrive , but a lot depends upon roadside yellow lines . Can we just stop the car when we see attractive window displays or rather just go somewhere where parking is easy ?

    Talk on the BBC about Europeans leaving Ireland this am and who is going to replace them . Perhaps we could encourage our residents to build their businesses here.

  3. Richard1
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    The rates issue illustrates what happens whenever there is a tax or spending change – however justified it is the cacophony of protest from the minority who lose out drowns out the majority who quietly welcome the change. Either rates need to be adjusted to reflect values or we need to get rid of business rates and raise the tax from some other source.

    • A different Simon
      Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      That is true Richard .

      There are good reasons for more of the rentable value of the location to be captured for the good of society rather than just the good of landlords and property speculators .

      Also it helps encourage the most efficient use of the land .

      As taxes go , this is far less damaging the employment taxes .

      I’d like to see it extended to residential land/property so that taxes on employment can be reduced accordingly .

      I’m sure there are lessons here to be learned about the transition to the new ratings .

      HM Govt and the civil service really seem to fall down on implementation to the point where they makes even good ideas look like bad ones .

  4. Iain Moore
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    The State and Councils are doing their damnedest to kill off our high streets . When going to get some supplies the question I am confronted with, do I go to the local super store and get free parking, or go into town and pay for my parking , with the chance of not have the appropriate change. When you financially charge people to use the town don’t be surprised to find they don’t go there.

    • turboterrier
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      @ Iain Moore

      The State and Councils are doing their damnedest to kill off our high streets.

      I think the councils are more to blame, if they were run in a more efficient way they could be better placed to deal with all the cuts. The salaries of the top council officers begs belief. Councils have not moved into the 21st century in the way they operate.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Sorry John I do not agree that the smaller shops in the High street have been offered a boost by the revaluations.

    Indeed the opposite seems to be happening if the reports are correct, smaller businesses rates are going up ,whilst the larger outlets and internet warehouses are getting a small reduction, yes some smaller businesses have been taken out of the equation all together, but how small do you have to be for this to apply.

    Small family Bed and Breakfast businesses are saying their rates are increasing by huge amounts for goodness sake.

    The real problem with high streets is the lack of sensible parking, and the high charges on parking when you can find it.

    Wokingham are now charging for parking 24 hours a day in the Towns Car Parks, so you now have to pay to park to collect a takeaway, or when going out for a meal or a drink in Town in the evening, utter madness.

    Contrary to many myths, many small business owners just manage to get by financially, they do not make a fortune, more unescapable added cost my just be the final straw that sees them give up.

    Reply There are measures to help small businesses with rates

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      In Scotland we are very ‘lucky’ in that the traffic wardens are non existent and the police ignore the fact that people park on double yellow lines/single lines and block the high street so that if an emergency vehicle has to get through they find it impossible. Then the locals moan and say they need a bypass!! If the council actually fined people for improper parking they could raise a bit more cash or reduce business rates. How much would it cost to put up a camera to monitor the situation? This is a safety issue too.

    • margaret
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Many wanted to start a business a few years ago , helped by the £5,000 D Cameron offered as a help start. Unfortunately self starters are frowned upon by many and non more so than academics who cannot comprehend anyone giving a better service than themselves based upon experience and knowledge; so bring them down.

  6. JM
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Surely it must be possible to come up with a rating system that is connected to an ability to pay rather than a one size fits all valuation percentage? Can a system not be devised which is related to the square footage occupied and the number of employees a business has in order to protect small businesses on the high street?

    Small high street shops are not cash cows. They are usually small self-owned businesses, which make little money. However, they often occupy prime, expensive locations and hence can be required to pay heavily under a business rating scheme. Out of town sheds are oversupplied and so their relative values are falling.

    We all need vibrant town centres. It is part of the Government’s policy as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework to encourage and support core town centres. A successful town centre depends on thriving shop frontages. Ironically, the more successful a town centre is the high the property prices. Empty shops/charity shops are a sign of a failing town centre. What is more, such town centres are not attractive places to be and drive people to the large out of town shopping centres, e.g. The Metro Centre, Bicester Village and Meadowhall. These large shopping temples may be very customer friendly, but they hollow out the adjacent town centre and can kill it. Business rates should reflect the success and size of the large out of centre shopping temples and the marginality of the town centre shops. A property tax is probably ill-suited to this.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted February 22, 2017 at 2:55 am | Permalink

      A couple of questions, because this is not my area of expertise:

      (1) Would it not be possible to place a rateable value on the free car parks that supermarkets make available to their shoppers?

      (2) Are warehouses subject to business rates? Warehouses are extensively used by internet based businesses.

      I know, Mr Redwood, that you don’t like taxes. Neither do I. However, the Wet wing of the Tory party approach every problem with bleeding hearts and open wallets (other people’s wallets) and have failed to contain public expenditure sufficiently. You need to keep on asking for containment of public expenditure and an end to ring fencing.

  7. Bert Young
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Car parking in the smaller towns – and other locations , is also a major factor in the decline of local shops . The increase in population has caused congestion of all sorts ; things can only be improved from a review from the very top .

    The same approach applies to business taxes ; the problem will not go away by pushing things on to LGAs where the talent level leaves much to be desired .

    • Anonymous
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Bert Young – The country is strapped. It is all about squeazing funds from the people.

      Better that the councils are forced to drop diversity/greencrap/equalities and concentrate on the basics and cut some costs that way.

      We simply cannot keep expanding towns and claim to be going green anymore.

  8. Bob
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    HM Treasury receives more than enough revenue to cover the cost of social care, the problem is that the government chooses to squander the money and give it away overseas.

    In the meantime, small businesses in the UK are being forced into liquidation due the to burden of red tape, rising property values and excessive taxation.

    Meanwhile the arrival of unprecedented numbers of immigrants, some of whom lack the means to support themselves is placing more pressure on welfare and social services.

    The government needs to get a grip on this before it results in a meltdown of public services (or is that the plan?).

  9. Mick
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Watched the channel 4 Dispatches on Brexit & your shrinking shop, talk about bias or what they totally made a scare tactic program, somebody should tell them that we are leaving no matter what, and that it’s the company’s jumping on the bandwagon of remoaners to make more money out of it, and make Brexit to blame for all the ills, well I’m not stupid and I know the price of stuff and if I think I’m getting fleeced then I don’t get it, there are alternatives, eventually the supermarkets will get the picture if not they can go under, but don’t take us for FOOLS

  10. Chris S
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    In France thousands of small shops survive that would have no chance in the UK. This is because of a combination of low rents and no business rates. In Germany you can rent a shop by the month without signing a long lease.

    Very high rents and the insistence by landlords that the owner of a new business signing a long lease combined with business rates that take no account of profitability are largely responsible for the failure of small shops in the UK.

    One of the biggest mistakes by the UK competition authority was the decision that the major supermarkets operation of small, local shops as well as their huge supermarkets was not anti-competitive. It very clearly was – it’s obvious that no small shopkeeper can possibly compete with the buying power of Sainsbury or Tesco.

    Business rates are an anachronism as is Council Tax. Margaret Thatcher was absolutely right to try and introduce her Community Charge scheme based on number of adults living in the home. Her mistake was trialing it in Scotland where she was deeply unpopular. Had she introduced it first in the South of England, we would probably not now be stuck with the Council Tax scheme.

    Perhaps property taxes on small businesses should be based on a combination of the number of staff employed, perhaps in combination with some element of turnover and/or profit based on Inland revenue tax returns ? Or better still, abandoned altogether.

    • alan jutson
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Chris S

      Agree with you about France, we tend to holiday in the south of France each year and have done for decades.

      Smaller Towns all have free parking availability because they want people to stop, shop, have a coffee or a beer, virtually no yellow type lines, no penalty for staying longer and spending more in the Town.

    • A different Simon
      Posted February 22, 2017 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Chris S ,

      I think you are missing the point .

      In the UK , if business rates were abolished , commercial rents would just go up by the same amount and shopkeepers would be no better off .

      If anything , business rates need to be increased so the landlord gets a smaller share of the rentable value of the location and land/property speculation is discouraged .

  11. hefner
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    What about looking closer to home? Woodley precinct in JR’s constituency: an unqualified success? Only two owners for the 25+ shops (and apartments above shops), rents going up by (much) more than RPI these last five years, a number of local or “regional” independent shops (fabric, bookstore, hunting/fishing/sporting shops) closing and replaced by yet another charity shop (6 presently) or coffee shops (another 6 presently).

    Would you consider that a thriving trading community? I don’t think so.
    The only mainly successful things in the precinct are the twice-monthly (previously called European) markets.

    Reply Woodley is not in my constituency. How many times do I need to remind people my constituency is not the same as Wokingham Borough Council area. I have some parts from West Berkshire and some from Wokingham. Wokingham Borough also has wards in Bracknell, Reading East and Maidenhead constituencies.

    • Danny
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Ok. How about responding to the points raised?

    • acorn
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Hef, JR is correct. The 382 referendum areas were based on local government districts not 650 Westminster constituencies. Disconnecting the results from individual MPs, who were initially 74% remain and finished up, post referendum, 76% leave.

      Reply Yes, I represents parts of West Berkshire and parts of Wokingham. 4 different MPs have parts of Wokingham Borough

    • hefner
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Many apologies to JR for my geographical mistake. But does that weaken the main point?

  12. a-tracy
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    You didn’t mention parking! This is one of the big killers that the Councils mess up on all the time with smaller local shopping centres. A combination of wanting to top up their own pension pots with parking fees and fines and poor quality planners at local councils who choose their primary towns and the others can sink without a trace with charity shops and lack of council spending on attractive displays, not one box of flowers, litter all over town, poorly maintained spaces all around the shopping centre, falling down infrastructure, no offices being built central to give the shops a clientele, poor mixed use spaces. Why shop there when half an hours drive away the outlet mall beckons with free parking and a half days enjoyable stroll around with atmosphere and planting and clean free car parks!! Some people go just for the exercise because frankly our local town centres are rotting.

    I’ve seen supermarkets set up new lines, kill off their local independent retailer who made a good living out of that product for decades be it a florist, or tv shop, now those shops stand empty or are charity shops and the supermarket cuts the line right down to the limited most profitable poor selection and the old shoppers have to move on to other larger shopping centres that give them the variety they seek.

    • Anonymous
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      For all the hype Britain is a poor country. The accounts may be massaged to make it seem like we’re rich, house prices may sky rocket and owners are ‘worth a lot’ but the reality is in what a place looks and feels like.

      A crowded, expensive train is poverty, a vastly expensive flat in a working area is poverty, litter is poverty – lack of policemen is poverty and every square inch of land being used to make money (parking) is poverty.

      Everything will be blamed on Brexit. It has arrived in the nick of time.

      • a-tracy
        Posted February 23, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        Certain areas of Britain are very poor, I originate from the border of Stoke on Trent, I used to have a lot of Labour supporters in my family, I ask them why keep voting for the same failing lot to look after your interests decade after decade, shake them up, make them fight for your votes and maybe, just maybe you might get some attention.

        I’m really hoping today that there is a shock in Stoke to stop politicians getting complacent about their safe seats, they killed Stoke central when they built Hanley up as a Shopping Centre and that isn’t much better, the other five towns have been left to rot, when and if people can get out they rarely go back unless they can afford to get to the Countryside on the outskirts.

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    The first question is usually – where can you park your car?

    Traditional High Streets were not built with car-owning customers in mind, and unless the local council sorts out adequate parking close to the High Street of course shoppers will tend to take their custom to other outlets where parking is not such a hassle.

  14. Danny
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Its interesting that you champion the corporate out of town shopping centres. We have a two-tier system operating. The suburbs and shires have dying high streets with empty shops, but with large corporate supermarkets and shopping centres, where access by car is essential.

    Whereas, Inner London and various middle-class enclaves have thriving markets and independent shops. They also have severe restrictions on cars and pollution. Restaurants are aplenty and even the pubs are surviving.

    Guess, where the political/media elite all reside? Indeed, they are neighbours with the executives of the corporates that prosper on the proletariat in their traffic-clogged shopping centres. The elite reject the lifestyle that they encourage on the people.

    Successive Govt’s have created this two-tier system, with a tax and legislative system that favours corporates over independents.

  15. Cliff. Wokingham.
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    RG40
    I do question whether these shopping centres are what people want or what they are given, thus taking any real choice away. If there are ONLY out of town shopping centres, then people will have to use them.

    Local authorities have priced smaller, independent retailers out of the high street: Look at our own High Street here in Wokingham. (I accept it is currently being pulled down, but I am talking say last year.) It is full of the larger eatery chains and a few charity shops. Most of the smaller independent businesses have gone, even Book Ends have shut down this weekend after Twenty Five years trading.
    It is ONLY the larger chains which can afford the leases and rates on the high street properties.
    You are right that the large supermarkets offer low cost variety in fresh(ish) products whether in season or not but, so much of it is produced overseas and lacks flavour. I fear that the vast majority of people have forgotten what real, fresh veg tastes like.

    May I also add that, for a traditional market town, Wokingham’s Market leaves much to be desired!
    I would like to see a more balanced High Street with fewer large chains of coffee shops and fast food outlets and more smaller, artisan food suppliers. Wokingham is an affluent area and embraces the food festival and I would suggest, is ripe for establishing a great set of smaller specialist food shops. Let’s not be like Bracknell, Basingstoke, Oxford and every other town centre, let’s be a bit different and attract those who want good food products where the taste and quality is more important than getting it for next to nothing.

    Reply There is retail space available if you or someone else wants to set up such a shop. The market also provides a range of local and specialist food.

    • Danny
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      You are ignoring the prohibitive rent and rates, plus the legislative bureaucracy that favours corporates over SMEs. Scotland has initiatives where rates are zero in many areas to encourage independent shops. In my part of Bucks, business rates often exceed the rent of a shop. As an elected MP, you should be offering solutions.

    • chris francis
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      At a ‘certain’ cost John….and that’s the point, isn’t it?

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, regarding this:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/20/europe-wants-britain-pay-billions-eu-schemes-2023/

    “Europe wants Britain to pay billions into EU schemes up until 2023”

    one can complain because the EU shows its mistrust of the UK government by demanding that it clears all net liabilities with a lump sum before we leave, or alternatively one can complain that because it is agreed that the money will be paid in easy instalments as it falls due over coming years we will still be paying in long after we have left the EU.

    Personally I would not necessarily be concerned if we were still paying in small annual sums eighty years after we had left the EU – that being the kind of timescale involved in an agreement that the UK would contribute gradually diminishing sums towards the pensions of the current EU employees, until they and their spouses had died, rather than paying a single lump sum when we leave. Of course it would be a matter for actuarial analysis, on whatever assumptions, which would be the better deal for us.

    Reply There is no need to pay them anything!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Certainly there is no need for the UK government to admit any legal liability.

      But if there is a deal, just as a matter of goodwill, we should not be concerned that in 2100 we may still be paying some ancient widow’s pension.

      Likewise we need not be concerned about a shrinking tail of minor or outdated EU laws still being on the UK statute book for decades after we have left.

      I happened to come across this 2004 Act of the Indian Parliament:

      http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/vikas_doc/docs/acts_new/1167484943_THE_BRITISH_STATUTES.pdf

      “THE BRITISH STATUTES (REPEAL) ACT, 2004”

      “An Act to repeal the British Law Ascertainment Act, 1859, the Foreign Law Ascertainment Act, 1861, the Colonial Probates Act, 1892, in so far as they apply to India, and the India (Consequential Provision) Act, 1949.

      BE it enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-fifth Year of the Republic of India as follows … ”

      In fact I think they’ve had another go at tidying up their post-Raj Indian law more recently, in 2014. But obviously it’s not a pressing concern.

    • Simon
      Posted February 22, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      John
      If there is no need to pay them anything why did Sir Ivan Rogers in his evidence today discuss payments to the end of the current budget cycle and a number of apparently hidden liabilities all adding up to somewhere near the £60 billion oft mentioned ? I suppose he was lying too was he ?

      PS: It is really annoying using a WordPress blog but still needing to put in name rank and number for every comment. There are spam filters and other options available !

      Reply We have no need or legal requirement to pay anything other than our regular contributions up to departure date

  17. David Edwards
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    The High Street is a dead concept.

    Time to get real and accept that many people shop at out of town centres and get the rest of their purchases online (or vice versa) and that ain’t never gonna change.

    My town centre is full of druggies and dossers, the on street parking is minimal.

    I have lost count of the times I have been told “We don’t have it in stock but we can order it for you.”

    Which is why I can’t remember the last time I shopped there.

    Far better to let the High Street wither on the vine and convert all those empty retail premises into residential properties.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

      Some truth in that, allow conversions between nearly all the different use classes, offices, banks, shops, restaurants, residential without all the absurd restrictive planning being required. Let the properties adapt to the needs of the time.

  18. JoolsB
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    “The changes to rates has once again highlighted the rapid changes on UK High Streets.”

    A misleading sentence John as the rate increases only apply to businesses in England just as the hike we are all about to see in our already exorbitant council tax bills will only apply to England. Of course these matters are devolved for the devolved nations to decide these matters for themselves. No so England. As usual the UK Government will decide what’s best for England (not). And as always, it’s discriminatory measures against England and it’s determination to see it as nothing but a cash cow, create a very unlevel playing field between the four parts of this disUK.

    How much longer do you think UK Governments, this Tory one included, can get away with treating England in this arrogant manner? Your Government like the Labour one before it is treating England with contempt. Hopefully the English will soon rise up and treat the anti-English Con/Lab/Lib parties with equal contempt.

    • a-tracy
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Good point Jools I don’t know why English MPs stand for this on devolved issues.

      It would be interesting to compare shops in like for like towns in the four nations, the turnover of the shop compared to value of the shop, footfall, rates, rent.

  19. Phil
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    What would happen if Business Rates were to be completely abolished. Just askin’.

    • acorn
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Phil, Hammond would be £29 billion short on the £710 billion receipts he is expecting to have, next budget day.

      I would replace Business Rates with the current Council Tax system, with extended bands, on all commercial property. You get dwellings and commercial property with a total value of circa £6,100 billion (5,200 + 900). From which you would have to raise £59 billion a year to be revenue neutral. That would mean Council Tax going up from circa 0.58% of market value to 0.96%.

      Politically impossible I hear you cry, probably so. UK Residential property pays far to little tax. The average property tax in the USA is 1.1%

      PS. Libertarian would pay nearer £6,000 on his Community Centre, rather than £25,000.

      • Phil
        Posted February 22, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Would you please point me in the direction of the £29bn calculation. Thanks.

        • acorn
          Posted February 23, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

          The OBR (official government) forecast for 2016/17 of £29 billion is in OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook Table 4.6 Current Receipts.

          ONS actuals are in Public Sector Finances Tables 1-10: Appendix A . You want sheet PSA6D.

          Have fun.

      • libertarian
        Posted February 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        acorn

        I’m voting for you on that !

    • Phil
      Posted February 23, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/feb/17/business-rates-rise-biggest-issue-small-firms-london

      So it looks as though £29bn is the gross amount brought in last year by business rates. The number takes no account of the gains to the economy which would arise following the demise of business rates. Perhaps economists have already put a figure on the amount of those gains which might be due to:

      1. Saving jobs and increasing the number of jobs with a resulting increase in the tax and national insurance take and a reduction in benefit payments

      2. An increase in the profit of tax paying businesses resulting in an increase in corporation tax or income tax [or in some cases maybe enabling a reduction in pension fund deficits].

      3. An increase in the overall economy resulting in the VAT take.

      4. A freeing up of some very clever people away from business rates and property valuation matters.

      5. Others

      I appreciate this post is now lost in the depth of the blog.

  20. Lifelogic
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Currently in New York, despite all the traffic here the air seems rather cleaner than London. Far fewer diesel vehicles and cleaner buses and trucks I suspect are the reason.

    The pushing of diesel, for carbon “pollution” and religious “climate alarmism” reasons was surely another damaging mistake by the EU “experts”. I do not suppose all these trendy wood burning, “renewable” biofuel stoves help very much either.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      L/L” I do not suppose all these trendy wood burning, “renewable” biofuel stoves help very much either.”

      Especially when you sit in a pub near to us and listen to the farmers going on about how much they are gaining from the subsidies paid out on biomass boilers. They actually have to open their windows because their barns/homes etc are too hot!! When people are in fuel poverty and cannot afford to heat their own homes to an acceptable standard then isn’t it a disgrace when we are all being forced to pay for this nonsense? I wonder how many of our MP’s are cashing in on the scam too?

  21. E.S Tablishment
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    The opening up of smaller stores by big supermarkets was not to make shopping convenient. Paying a manager and staff, insuring them and paying a pension eventually is hardly profitable when an owner/manager and his family have all on to make a living.. It did undermine others too from making a living in the immediate area, even pubs.

  22. Antisthenes
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Soon the only shops will be those that compliment a leisure activity. For all our other consumer needs that will be provided at the touch of buttons as we use the internet to source goods and services and have them delivered to our homes. Considering the cost and time savings it is inevitable. Supermarkets and High street shops will disappear to be replaced with housing. The new rate valuations are going to hasten that in areas where the valuations have increased. For the enhanced use of resources and for the convenience that it bestows on consumers then this shopping revolution can only be regarded as very welcome addition to our well being.

    Every innovative advance has it’s detractors who make woeful predictions which are not often true and even when they are are negligible compared to the benefits. Only so when innovation is market driven not so when it is driven by governments as inevitably when it is it is does more harm than good. A lesson lefties should heed when they decry the capitalist system and want it replaced with a state run system.

  23. William Long
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    We buy most things apart from perishable food items on line. For those things we need to buy in a shop (and where we live that includes the daily newspaper) I find that car access and ability to park has become everything. We live a mile outside a village that has a Post Office/newsagent and a Co-op self service store. However parking in the village has become more and more difficult – what recession? one has to ask oneself – and recently the filling station on the main road has opened a Spar store. I am not alone in using it more and more. So even on a small local scale the high street’s days seem numbered.

  24. fedupsoutherner
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    The only reason our local high street is just about surviving despite having a small example of a popular supermarket is because all the parking is free and we have two car parks close to the shops that are free. If we had to pay and walk a long distance then I am sure half of them would be closed by now.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the councils parking charges and ticket muggers have killed many high streets. You even have to pay rates when the shop cannot even find a tenants now.

  25. ian
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Not a lot you can do, people like to herd together and think a like, apart from tearing down the old ones and redevelop with 4 or 5 floors of flats with parking under and few shop for eating and that but they have to be no rates so small shops , cannot see private companies putting money up for that because it will be for poor areas of the country, it would more of a community thing than money making venture where kid come home from school and have a play areas and can get something to eat for small money if nobody home from work or just leave abandon, place of crime and drugs, that the problem when you build big housing estates you have no shops or anything so you get crime.

  26. Prigger
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    The debate in Parliament yesterday,derived from an online petition, to stop Trump making a State visit.

    The anti-Trump brigade had never listened to Trump above a few media soundbites. The most earnest pro-Trump speaker referred to Trump’s recent mass rally with thousands present in a stadium.
    It was in a huge aircraft hanger.

    It would be an idea if parliamentarians would just shut up about Trump. They have not listened to him at length. They do not listen to him at length. They do not even listen to him in the much edited soundbites by Fake News broadcasters like the BBC, Sky News and CNN. What odd game are they attempting to play?
    Non-political people in my street ( some ) listen to him online..his speeches and rallies. I find this, actually, astounding.
    Why are Parliamentarians so at odds with the behaviour of their electorates? Another world?

  27. David Williams
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Don’t increase taxes on UK businesses. Put tax on German cars and French wines.

  28. ian
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Parliament and councils have broken society with the minority view which they panda to for votes and waste money on and the majority of people get left behind and big business panda to the rich and people who have good paid jobs and again the majority get left behind in rundown areas of the country because there is no money in the area and no money for re development of their areas so they are just abandon by politician and big business, you live in a world that for last 25 year where the minority view wins.

  29. Mike Wilson
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Why anyone opens a high street shop baffles me. Business rates, lease costs, rent, payroll, administer VAT, operate a workplace pension scheme and councils that discourage customers with high parking charges … and that’s before you even think about buying some goods and selling them. No wonder our High Streets are full of charity shops and coffee shops.

  30. ian
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    As you can see, the only time the majority had a win was with the eu ref when councils and parliaments politicians were not involved in the voting, all they could do was to mouth off from the sidelines, there were no parties involved just people and the media and majority view won, that’s why they like the system to stay as it is so the majority always loses with the party system, with them politicians always taking the minority view to make out they are goody goodies, this sort of system has been used down through the ages and always leads to the down fall of society and abandonment of laws as town and city turn into wastelands because the majority are never heard.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page