Com­ment: Mike Cherry, FSB Na­tional Chair­man

The Scarborough News - - FEATURE -

There’s no doubt the high street is go­ing through huge changes. With pres­sure from on­line com­pe­ti­tion, ever-in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tion, as well as spi­ralling busi­ness rates and sky-high rents, high street re­tail­ers are un­der the cosh like never be­fore.

And with chang­ing cus­tomer habits, bank branch clo­sures, re­duced ac­cess to cash and ex­pen­sive town cen­tre park­ing adding to the mix, it’s no sur­prise small re­tail­ers con­tinue to re­port the low­est con­fi­dence level of any sec­tor.

That said, small busi­ness own­ers are very re­silient. They are used to adapt­ing. But it’s clear some­thing must be done if we want our high streets to not only sur­vive, but to thrive. 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.

There’s no sil­ver bul­let to solve the prob­lems th­ese lo­cal busi­nesses face though, and it will take ac­tion by both Gov­ern­ment and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses, to help ease th­ese bur­dens. For one, the out­dated busi­ness rates sys­tem is in ur­gent need of an over­haul. Not only are small in­de­pen­dent high street shops and other busi­nesses be­ing left reel­ing by un­af­ford­able bills, the sys­tem is al­most im­pos­si­ble for many to nav­i­gate with­out the use of ex­pen­sive lawyers or agents.

We’ve been call­ing for busi­ness rates to be frozen from next April, as well as a £1,000 dis­count for lo­cal shops, pubs and eater­ies and other busi­nesses.

It’s also cru­cial that there’s more in­vest­ment in the lo­cal road net­work, pot­holes are fixed quickly and more free park­ing pro­vided, to help at­tract more peo­ple into our town cen­tres. With­out ac­tion we will con­tinue to see high street re­tail­ers with no choice

but to close their doors.

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