TODAY’S parliamentary report on the future of high streets follows publication – just weeks ago – of a similar inquiry led by the respected retailer Sir John Timpson.
Headed by Sheffield MP Clive Betts, it makes a compelling case for local councils to be given the power to save town centres. It also makes a number of recommendations about bringing vacant buildings back into use – and the Government needs to refine its planning guidelines. The longer retail premises stand empty, the greater the threat to other businesses.
Yet the biggest issue is business rates – and how high street stores pay far more than online retailers like Amazon. According to Mr Betts and his team, Amazon’s business rates amounted to around 0.7 per cent of their UK turnover, while high street retailers are paying up to 6.5 per cent.Unless this changes, the future of town centres will be even more compromised and these reports will just gather just like those empty buildings left to rot. Given that this issue transcends party politics, and matters to every community, Brexit should not be an excuse for inaction.