In advance of a delegation from the British Independent Retail (bira) going to the House of Commons next Tuesday (September 11) to launch their business rates reform plan to nine MPs at the House of Commons, the Federation of Small Business (FSB) has also demanded reforms that will help to take the pressure off struggling independent businesses.
The FSB’s recommendations include a freeze on business rates, increased free town centre parking and safeguards around access to cash and banking. The organisation says that the burden of rising rates bills and ever-increasing rents, coupled with soaring employment costs and pressure from online retailers and out of town shopping centres, are creating a perfect storm in the UK’s town centres.
The FSB has set out new recommendations in five key areas, which they feel should be targeted by policymakers to provide an urgent lifeline for the sector in England.
* Create fairer business rates bills for high streets and beyond.
* Build an easy and simple system for businesses to appeal rates bills.
* Abolish the rate relief rule that penalises small business expansion into additional premises.
* Create more free parking and invest in the maintenance of local road networks, which support local high streets and their customers.
* Put in place measures to safeguard access to cash and banking services
“It’s clear the pressure is mounting,” states Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). “Spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents are piling onto small retailers, hospitality businesses and others on the high street. The high cost of town centre parking, poor infrastructure, the blight of potholes and the loss of vital banking services are also ramping up the pressure.”
Adds Mike: “We know that small business owners are resilient and are used to adapting to market forces. But we want to see Government and local authorities come together to look at real solutions to these issues so that our high streets are not only able to survive, but to thrive.”
Mike continues: “Over the long term, a serious look is needed to overhaul the unfair, regressive business rates tax that hits firms before they’ve had the chance to make their first £pound of turnover, let alone profit. As the Budget approaches, the Chancellor must provide targeted support to those businesses struggling to keep their heads above water in the face of rates rises.”
Taking a realistic approach, he adds: “We’re not suggesting there’s a quick fix for the high street, but it’s clear something needs to be done. We’re calling on the Government to take control of the situation and, working with local authorities, take the pressure off struggling high street businesses.”
Top: The FSB is among the lobby groups setting out to save Britain’s high streets.