High streets are in line for a bumper £1.5bn boost in Monday’s Budget with Chancellor Philip Hammond set to give nearly half a million small retailers relief from business rates.
In a vindication of The Yorkshire Post’s Love Your High Street campaign, Mr Hammond will announce £900m of immediate business rate relief for 496,000 small firms.
He will also launch a £650m fund to transform high streets by improving transport and infrastructure access, relaxing town planning laws to allow local areas to develop under-used retail space into homes and offices, and providing help to restore properties and put historic buildings back into use.
The business rates relief plan will knock a third off small retailers’ bills, for example giving a pub in Sheffield with a rateable value of £37,750 a £6,178 saving.
It comes after a string of crises for high-profile high street chains including the likes of House of Fraser, Debenhams and New Look, as more shoppers prefer to buy products online.
But retailers have long complained that they are unfairly penalised by a business rates system that often sees them pay much more than online giants like Amazon, which usually have cheaper premises out of town.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said Mr Hammond’s moves would be a “welcome step in getting the urgent help that all small businesses need”.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “To make a real difference to every high street, this relief needs to include hospitality and service businesses, not just retailers, and we will be looking forward to hearing more details from the Government on this. The high cost of town centre parking and poor infrastructure has also been ramping up the pressure on small high street firms. This investment in transport and infrastructure must be targeted at fixing potholes, improving local roads and providing more free parking to encourage shoppers to the high street.”
Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said the relief would be “welcomed by many”.
“The roots of the problem go far deeper though, with business rates giving larger retailers serious headaches, alongside manufacturers and logistics firms.
“There must be a wholescale review next year.”
Mr Hammond will also announce plans to allow more hotels, restaurants and pubs to hold weddings following a Law Commission review of marriage law, which dates back to 1836.
In a potential boost to the hospitality sector the Chancellor will say he wants to make “outdated” rules around wedding venues simpler and fairer, while reducing red tape and ensuring the dignity of marriage ceremonies is preserved.
The Treasury said it could potentially make weddings cheaper.