Parking and local engagement are key topics in new small business report Streets Ahead

  • 12 Mar 2020

A new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that even though small businesses face an uphill battle to survive, they are keen to be supported so they can play their part in 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 wants 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. Action at the local level is just as important as at central government. This is why FSB is calling on local authorities to act by introducing measures such as the expansion of free or discounted parking to attract shoppers to a high street, especially at a time when large anchor stores are closing.

Local authorities and community groups should be able to access pots of funding to bring long term empty units into use, which may involve converting them into new uses. Access to cash also remains important to smaller businesses on the high streets.

Our research shows that almost one in six rely on having a local bank branch to make regular cash deposits and that cash remains the second most commonly used method of payment used by them.  We are calling for local authorities to make provision for easy access to cash on the high street. This could be done by introducing discretionary business rates relief to cover the costs of installing ATMs in businesses premises. They could also arrange for improved cash depositing services for small businesses on the high street where none other exist.

David Milham, South East Regional Chair, said: “High streets are at the epicentre of many Kent villages and towns, but for many high street-based small businesses, these are difficult times. Small businesses make up 97% of the Kent economy. Business rates have long been a painful thorn in the side of businesses. Our research shows that without business rates relief, 38 per cent of small businesses on the high street would not survive. In today’s budget, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a one year extension to the retail discount to leisure and hospitality sectors, as well as abolishing business rates for firms with rateable value below £51,000 for 12 months. This is a positive measure for some small firms.

“But it’s also critical that local authorities do what they can to support their local businesses, too.  As high streets evolve, we’re seeing a rise in independent businesses. Many small firms are already engaged in Business Improvement Districts as well as community groups. These organised community efforts can be positive influences high streets as well as the wider economy.”

For the full report please visit www.fsb.org.uk/resource-report/streets-ahead