Small businesses call for urgent help to revitalise their high streets

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A major new report, ‘Streets Ahead’, from the Federation of Small Businesses has revealed how small firms facing an uphill battle to survive want to be supported so they can help transforming high streets.

That is why in addition to making funding available to local authorities and other public bodies through the Future of the High Streets and Stronger Towns Fund, FSB want to see small businesses directly supported so they can lead the way in transforming our high streets.

Many small firms are eager to engage with other businesses as part of community action to help their local economies thrive, and measures can be taken to create a more ‘business friendly ecosystem’ around our high streets.

This includes an increased provision of car parking as well as fixing potholes and freeing up planning red tape so that small businesses can innovate and develop mixed goods and services business models.

Small firms urgently need local authorities in England to take bold actions to give their areas the injection of life that so many towns, cities and villages are so desperate for. This is why FSB is calling on local authorities to create a High Streets Strategy, to properly assess and target the biggest issues in their areas be that parking or planning.

However, key issues such as business rates, controlled by central government need to be addressed urgently in the upcoming Budget if we are to unlock the potential of small businesses on our high streets.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry, said: “High streets are at the heart of our communities. They are the epicentre of villages, towns and cities right across the country, but for many, these are difficult times.

“Small businesses are ready and willing to step up within these communities with almost a third of those on high streets taking a role in the local leadership of the high street, and many more wishing to get involved. However, the fact remains that small businesses need urgent direct support to enable them to be at the vanguard of the transformation of the high street.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but in order to thrive they need the right support, and it’s time that the Government takes action now to help secure the future of these firms.

“Business rates have long been a painful thorn in the side of businesses, and that struggle has only intensified. Our research shows that without the business rates relief, a staggering 38 per cent of small businesses on the high street would not survive. This just goes to show how regressive and unfair the rates are on small firms. That is why we’re calling on the Government to further extend the scope and duration of the ‘Retailers Relief’ and to remove the rateable value ceiling of £2,899 on second business premises in England.

“But it’s also critical that local authorities take action too. Measures such as the expansion of free or discounted parking is a simple way to encourage shoppers to a high street, especially at a time when large anchor stores are closing.

“As high streets evolve, we’re seeing a rise in independent businesses and many small firms engaged in Business Improvement Districts and Local Enterprise Partnerships as well as other community groups.

“These organised community efforts can act as positive influences for towns and their high streets as well as the wider economy.

“Small businesses are at the very heart of our communities and are the future of our high streets, which is why with the right support they’ll continue to be so for generations to come.”