Is the budget doing enough to save high street businesses?

Is the budget doing enough to save high street businesses? image

Will the announcement of a £1.5 billion package of business rate relief and town centre infrastructure spending be enough to help UK businesses survive on the high street? Recent reports from the Local Data Company point out that the UK suffered nearly six thousand business closures in 2017, the highest figures since 2013.

It’s an issue that the FSB and other high street associations have been lobbying for several years. The FSB have always put pressure on the Chancellor Philip Hammond to ‘make good’ on statement that “the Conservative Party is, and always will be, the party of business”. It looks as if we are seeing such support now eventually coming through.

Town centres have for a long time been dogged by poor infrastructure, lack of parking, parking charges, high business rates and the growth of online spending – all contributing tough hurdles for businesses looking to thrive on the high street.

The chancellor, Philip Hammond has now put together a £900m town centre business rates relief package which is set to save about a third off small business rate bills.

A quote from the treasury has stated that “a pub in Sheffield with an annual rent of £37,750 would save around £6,200 in rates due to this latest rates relief, while a newsagent in Birmingham paying £14,250 in rent would save £1,800.”

There is also a package of around £650 million to improve the infrastructure in town centres across the UK. Improvements to transport, to re-develop empty shops as homes and offices and restore old, historic properties to new health.

This is music to the ears of many but long overdue in the eyes of many business owners.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, said that this announcement will not help the larger high street firms who employ the majority of workers.

“While we hugely welcome the temporary support being given to small businesses, these measures alone are not sufficient to enable a successful reinvention of our high streets,” she said.

“The underlying issue remains that the business rates burden is simply too high and this unsustainable system needs less tinkering and more wholesale reform within the context of the wider taxation system.”

FSB Chairman Mike Cherry also stated that “for small business owners, this Budget is the Chancellor’s make or break moment.”.

Although for many it could be too little too late we are seeing many positive signs in towns who are pulling together as businesses, looking to increase footfall, lobby local council for funding and support, creating campaigns and high street opportunities are at least surviving. We have helped many high street retail shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes access funding they need to grow. The feedback on this budget announcement has been that it may be a positive step in the right direction.

And a point to remember, this could all be re-visited if we have a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

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