A business rates freeze, better parking infrastructure and access to cash are vital elements of a thriving high street and must immediately be addressed by policy makers, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. (FSB).
As part of a new strategy to support small high street businesses in England, from retailers to coffee shops, the FSB has laid out a series of recommendations it claims would alleviate some of the pressures forcing owners out of business.
“It’s clear the pressure is mounting,” said FSB chairman, Mike Cherry.
“Spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents are piling on to 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.”
Read more about the current state of UK high streets:
- How smaller retailers can stand out on a changing high street
- Why physical picks beat virtual kicks in today’s chaotic retail landscape
- Government urged to save high street with 50,000 jobs lost in 2018 alone
The FSB has demanded a “freeze” on business rates from April 2019, alongside a special £1,000 discount for high street businesses. Small businesses expanding into additional premises should not lose out on rates relief.
“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,” Cherry added.
“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.
“With transitional rate relief now winding down, it’s vital that businesses are given the right support, in the form of a rates freeze from April 2019 and a discount for local shops, pubs and eateries.
Free parking and infrastructure investment
High parking charges and lack of spaces deter shoppers from high streets, with out of town retail centres seen as a cheaper alternative.
The FSB has demanded local authorities provide more free parking to encourage shoppers back to the high street all year round.
The organisation also demanded more cash for local road maintenance, fairer distribution of government funding on major road network projects and improved local transport routes into town centres.
“Investing in the road network, fixing potholes quickly and providing more town centre free parking would make a real difference to small firms,” Cherry said.
Access to cash and banking
Cuts to cash machine funding and the loss of thousands of bank branches have also hit high street footfall across the UK.
The FSB has demanded safeguards for the Post Office network as a viable provider of core business services, alongside a full government review of access to cash and digital payment methods.
Cherry added: “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.
“We’ve set out five key areas to be targeted, from tackling ever-increasing business rates bills and simplifying the way bills can be appealed, to calling on local councils to increase the amount of free town centre parking.”
— FSB (@fsb_policy) September 6, 2018
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.