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Small businesses call for urgent government action to bring life back to Britain’s high streets

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Friday, 06 March 2020. Posted in Politics, Analysis

UK businesses are urging the government to provide them with direct support to enable them to transform Britain’s high streets.

Small businesses call for urgent government action to bring life back to Britain’s high streets

UK businesses are urging the government to provide them with direct support to enable them to transform Britain’s high streets

High streets across the UK have taken a serious hit over the years. With staggering business rates, a rise in online shopping and changing consumer habits, how can businesses stay afloat? Now, small businesses are urging authorities to provide them with more support to bring life back to Britain’s high streets, the new “Streets Ahead” report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed.

In August last year, the government launched the Future of the High Streets and Stronger Towns Fund, providing funds to local authorities and other public bodies to renew and reshape Britain’s town centres and high streets. However, the FSB insist small businesses must be given direct support to lead the way in reviving UK’s dwindling high streets. 

According to FSB’s Streets Ahead report, almost a third (30%) of small businesses on the high street are helping to address key issues by being part of the local initiatives such as BIDs - and another one in six (17%) want to get more involved. To allow this, the government can take measures to create a more ‘business-friendly ecosystem’ around our high streets. Many small businesses are eager to work with others in the community and help their local economies thrive. This can include an increased provision of car parking, fixing potholes and freeing up planning red tape so that small businesses can innovate and develop mixed goods and services business models.

Small firms in rural areas are generally more positive about their high street compared to those in urban districts. 50% of businesses in rural areas believe their high streets will thrive compared to just 35% in urban areas. The report also revealed that 70 per cent of small businesses on the high street say that enhanced parking would make the biggest positive difference to them.

High street businesses are urging local authorities to take bold action and bring life back to Britain’s towns, cities and villages. The FSB is calling on local authorities to create a High Streets Strategy to assess and target the biggest issues in their areas, such as parking or planning. 

However, the key issue of business rates still remains and must be addressed urgently in the upcoming Budget to unlock the potential of small businesses on our high streets. According to the report, 38 per cent of businesses would not survive without business rates relief.

“High streets are at the heart of our communities. They are the epicentre of villages, towns and cities right across the country, but for many, these are difficult times,” Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry, said. “Small businesses are ready and willing to step up within these communities with almost a third of those on high streets taking a role in the local leadership of the high street, and many more wishing to get involved. However, the fact remains that small businesses need urgent direct support to enable them to be at the vanguard of the transformation of the high street. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but in order to thrive they need the right support, and it’s time that the Government takes action now to help secure the future of these firms.

“Business rates have long been a painful thorn in the side of businesses, and that struggle has only intensified. Our research shows that without the business rates relief, a staggering 38 per cent of small businesses on the high street would not survive. This just goes to show how regressive and unfair the rates are on small firms. That is why we’re calling on the Government to further extend the scope and duration of the ‘Retailers Relief’ and to remove the rateable value ceiling of £2,899 on second business premises in England.

“But it’s also critical that local authorities take action too. Measures such as the expansion of free or discounted parking is a simple way to encourage shoppers to a high street, especially at a time when large anchor stores are closing.

“As high streets evolve, we’re seeing a rise in independent businesses and many small firms engaged in Business Improvement Districts and Local Enterprise Partnerships as well as other community groups.

“These organised community efforts can act as positive influences for towns and their high streets as well as the wider economy.

“Small businesses are at the very heart of our communities and are the future of our high streets, which is why with the right support they’ll continue to be so for generations to come.”

Britain’s high streets have seen a massive slump over the years. As MPs pledge their commitment to cutting business rates and saving their towns, the government must put in more effort to directly aid small businesses in bringing life back to UK’s high streets so they can thrive once more.

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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