The House of Commons’ Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s report into the future of high streets and town centres, comes as welcome news to independent retailers. With recommendations for rates reform, based on the suggestions put forward by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) and increased investment in town centres, business owners will be comforted to know that retail is still prominent in the vision for the future.
Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira, who took part in the inquiry alongside member Martin Foster of independent business Lakeland Leather says: “We broadly agree with the findings and recommendations set out in the report. It is clear that high streets and town centres will change, and many stakeholders have an important role to play. It requires vision and leadership at a local government level, with funding from central government.
“Furthermore, we are pleased to see it being recognised that independent retail businesses will be crucial in providing the diversity and quality retail experience demanded by the consumers and our members should feel encouraged by this. It is important for MPs to realise that high streets are not just about the major chains and that independents do and will continue to play a key role.”
Whilst no clear solution is given on how business rates can be reformed, the Committee refers to them as ‘increasingly outdated and far from ideal’, and recommends that Bira’s suggestion for an allowance, similar to an income tax allowance be considered, to lessen the complexity and administrative burden of rates reliefs.
Andrew Goodacre adds: “We are really pleased that the report makes direct reference to Bira’s proposal of introducing a rates allowance, something we passionately believe will support independent retail businesses. We are continuing our campaign on rates and will be responding to the new inquiry looking specifically at rates reform.”
Bira also welcomes the suggestion by the Committee to use funds generated by any new taxation of online businesses to reduce business rates for bricks and mortar retailers, as well as a 12-month rates holiday for those retailers who have seen an increase in their rates following investment in their properties. Both recommendations support Bira’s ongoing campaign to level the playing field between online and bricks and mortar retail.