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20 December 2018

Community focus key to high street success

Responding to the publication of the Government's High Street Report authored by Sir John Timpson, Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said:

Our local high streets have been in the spotlight more than ever this year, with an increasing number of empty shops, job losses, and high profile chain and department stores going out of business. Small firms are in the midst of this, up against spiralling business rates, high rents and online competition. The challenges of expensive town centre parking and the loss of bank branches and ATMs all add to this.

“These recommendations emphasise a community-focussed approach to tackling the challenges facing the high street. Small businesses are at the heart of our communities, providing jobs, bespoke products and a personal service, which should be conserved.

“A healthy high street should be diverse – not just featuring retail but also hospitality, services like hairdressers as well as gyms and shared workspaces for the self-employed.

Parking remains a huge issue for high streets and town centres. High parking charges and a lack of spaces often put off shoppers from visiting their local shops, instead favouring out of town centres with free parking. It’s positive that the report highlights this and calls on local authorities to review their parking provision to make sure it is encouraging footfall and attracting shoppers back to the high street.

“At October’s Budget, we welcomed the new Future High Streets Fund and a new business rate discount, which should give some relief to small firms on the high street.

“We now need to start seeing solid details of how businesses can access these much-needed rate relief funds. Business rates are a huge burden on small firms with the overall bill expected to rise to over £30bn next year, so it’s right that this extra funding has been pledged. But to have an impact, it needs to reach those that need it across the country, applying immediately to bills that cover the period from 1 April next year.”