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New High Streets Hub to help small businesses to flourish

Pressure is mounting on small businesses on the high street, and while there’s no quick fix, it’s clear something needs to be done.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has now launched a new online High Streets Hub. The hub sets out how the UK government and local authorities in England can help high streets to flourish. 

The hub highlights five key areas, from business rates to access to banking services, with targeted recommendations for policymakers to provide an urgent lifeline for the sector in England. FSB’s recommendations include a raft of interventions to the current, outdated business rates system in England.

The burden of rising rates bills and ever-increasing rents, coupled with soaring employment costs and strain from online retailers and out of town shopping centres, have come together to create a perfect storm in our town centres. 

FSB’s High Streets Hub covers the following main themes:
• Creating fairer business rates bills for high streets and beyond
• Building an easy and simple system for businesses to appeal rates bills
• Abolishing the rates relief rule that penalises small business expansion into additional premises
• Encouraging free parking and maintenance of local road networks that support local high streets and their customers 
• Putting in place measures to safeguard access to cash and banking services

As well as a freeze on rates from April 2019 when the next inflation-linked rise is due, FSB’s recommendations call on Government to introduce a £1,000 business rates discount for local shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, to provide a shot in the arm for high streets. 

Government should also look to introduce a type of ‘London weighting’ to Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) to help struggling firms, by increasing thresholds for intensely-pressured areas, and expanding the concept to other areas outside the capital most affected by the last revaluation, and whose temporary relief is also now falling away.

Other factors at play include cuts to cash machine funding and the loss of thousands of bank branches, impacting on high street footfall all over the country. FSB is calling for the Post Office network to be protected, with every branch providing a reliable, efficient and standardised core of business services.

FSB’s recommendations also include: 
• Change Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) to be a personal threshold for a business owner so that it can apply to multiple properties owned by one business, below the combined rateable value of £15,000.
• Conduct a full market review of access to cash and digital payment methods to be undertaken by Government and the Payment Systems Regulator. 
• Create a dedicated appeals route for small businesses focusing on speed and compliance, avoiding charges and penalties. 
• Increase funding for local road maintenance, fairer distribution of Government cash on major road network projects and improved local transport ensuring routes into town centres are in a good state of repair for both businesses and consumers.

To read the recommendations in full, visit the FSB High Streets Hub