Battle for the shopping streets of West Lancashire amid the burden of shopping
Advisers from all political parties in the West Lancashire Borough Council have backed a call for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to change the corporate tariff system, saying this places an unfair burden on ‘brick and mortar’ stores and damages city centers.
Labor Council Gareth Dowling put forward a motion at the last plenary council meeting calling on the government to make a real change to the UK’s commercial property valuation system following numerous national reviews by the Treasury, other government-related organizations and retail activist Mary Portas in recent years.
Coun Dowling praised the current government’s willingness to recognize the problems faced by businesses on main streets and downtown with initiatives such as the Holiday Program, Covid Support Business Loans, Grants and the Group of High Street work. However, a fundamental change was needed in the rate system, he said.
In recent decades, commercial tariffs (officially known as national non-domestic tariffs or uniform commercial tariffs) have been based on the assessed value of a commercial property, such as a store, office, or industrial building. , and a “multiplier” set by the Westminster government. The multiplier is the number of pence of each pound of assessed value that the owner of the business using the property must pay. There was a standard rate for large businesses and a rate for small businesses.
Critics say the current system is based on outdated brick-and-mortar real estate values and outdated downtown business models. They say it fails to recognize the huge growth in online retail and business, and the new needs of city centers after the lockdown and into the future.
In addition, councils are required to collect tariffs from local businesses, but must then send the money to the national government, which then decides how to distribute it to local areas as it sees fit. This was particularly unpopular. In recent years, governments have made some changes to this arrangement, such as allowing more money to be “repatriated” to local councils that collect it. However, the corporate pricing system remains unpopular and controversial for many people.
In recent months, West Lancashire advisers have observed persistent difficulties in filling some empty stores with similar retailers, such as the old Dorothy Perkins store in Ormskirk. However, new businesses including bars and cafes are filling the gaps in some places and this is the case with the Dorothy Perkins unit.
The rules for classifying buildings have also been changed in the national planning system, allowing more varied use of buildings for multiple purposes throughout the day and evening.
Speaking at the West Lancashire Borough Council meeting, Coun Dowling said: “As the Treasury Select Committee said in 2019, the current system of commercial tariffs places an unfair burden on physical businesses compared to online businesses , and for businesses, the tariff system needs a radical overhaul.
His motion read: “This council believes healthy shopping streets are essential for jobs, shopping and recreation, but many stores and businesses were struggling even before the Covid pandemic. Retail employment fell in more than 25% of local authorities between 2015 and 2018, according to the Office of National Statistics, and more than half of all UK consumers were shopping online before the pandemic.
“This council notes that retail is among the sectors most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the almost complete closure of non-essential stores between March and June 2020 and subsequent local and national closures and ongoing restrictions. have hit businesses hard. .
“The need for social distancing has changed the way many businesses operate by reducing footfall. The pandemic has accelerated what, in many cases, has been a longer trend of declining footfall and changing shopping habits. As the Portas Review recognized ten years ago, the form and function of many shopping streets must adapt if they are to survive.
“This council decides to write to the Chancellor to encourage him to undertake an urgent review of corporate tariffs to further support stores and businesses in recovering from the pandemic.”
Retail activist Mary Portas wrote a Downtown Review and made a series of recommendations to David Cameron’s government in 2011 and 2012. A number of downtown Portas projects were completed at the era. At the time, the Conservative-Lib-Dem coalition government said it would look into its recommendations in more detail.
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