BRC responds to Labour Party's plans to save high streets
Labour’s plans, published yesterday, include proposals for a temporary cut in VAT, the introduction a retail diversity planning clause to give local people a say on any retail plans for their area as well as the creation of a ‘competition test’ in the planning system to help ensure a level playing field between small and large shops. They also recommend an empty shops initiative to enable councils to find innovative uses for vacant units.
BRC director of public affairs, Jane Bevis said: "The Coalition Government has made a number of welcome commitments in the Growth Review which, when implemented, will help in addressing weak consumer spending and in reducing business costs.
"It's absolutely essential that we see the same commitment to economic growth and private sector employment prospects as to dealing with the deficit. In a sector like retail that means recognising the vital role of large retailers (who employ two million people), as well as small independents, in delivering retail growth and their capacity to help drive down inflation. It also means giving people who are better placed the confidence to spend more - preserving jobs and local services.”
BRC said the the Portas Review had the capacity to identify strategic measures needed for the medium to long term but urgent action was needed to cut red tape. BRC also recommends a moratorium on new regulatory burdens for companies of all sizes, and action to smooth index-linked Government-driven costs such as Business Rates which BRC says affect retailers disproportionately.
Bevis continued: "We already have excellent tools such as Business Improvement Districts which can deliver the re-investment and invigoration many high streets need. They should be used to forge genuine local partnerships. That would be more effective than adding further complications to the planning system which needs to be streamlined."
She added: "The future for many of our high streets will be different as customer needs and habits change. Helping achieve that change in an ordered transition is vital for our communities. Labour's suggestion on empty shops would do something to help their struggling neighbours but the shot in the arm retail really needs is more custom and less cost."
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