Huge shot in the arm for our High Streets
Thu 24 Jan 2019
By Mel Stride
One of the most important features of our vast rural constituency is our high streets. They lie at the heart of our communities. Over many years I have worked to do whatever I can to protect them whether supporting local community shops, campaigning against the post office closures of the last Labour government or pushing for reductions in local business tax burdens.
Last year, as the Treasury Minister responsible for UK taxation I took legislation through parliament to reduce future business rates rises which will save business £2.3 billion. Now as part of this Autumn’s budget we will cut business rates for the majority of local traders (those with a rateable value of below £51,000) - by a third and for the 2 years in the run up to the next rates revaluation. A pub with a rateable value of say £37,750 will save £6,178 and a newsagent with a rateable value of £14,250 will save £1,749. These savings will go straight to supporting business profitability making them more sustainable.
Whilst keeping down business rates is important it will not on its own ensure that high streets thrive. The way we shop is changing with 18% of our purchases now online and this figure is growing rapidly. So as well as lowering taxes on our businesses we need to see high streets reinvent themselves.
Some are just too long and strung out, pocketed with disused units. So we need to look at freeing up the planning system so that unviable retail shops can be converted into accommodation or commercial offices. So we have just announced that we will be launching a Future High Streets Fund which will provide funding for changes to local infrastructure which can facilitate additional visitors to town centres.
In addition we are setting up a High Streets Task Force to ensure that local communities are able to share their ideas. In formulating these ideas I have been grateful to a range of stakeholders, not least the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Retail Consortium all of whom have spent time with me to work up the best way forward.
Locally, along with the local FSB I have benefitted from the on going support of Stuart Rogers at Ashburton Post Office whose energy and ideas have helped inform and shape the plans that are now being taken forward.
Politics as they say is the art of the possible. As an MP and as a minister you have to be focused on a small number of key areas if you are to make a difference. High Streets has been one of my passions for many years – I believe in them as I believe in our communities, in the beauty that is Devon and the gentle decency of her people. I hope that this package with its huge tax break for local businesses delivers hope and growth for our high streets and our local communities alike. More from Mel on Twitter @MelJStride and online www.melstridemp.com
Other columns by Mel Stride
Reading - Thu 8 Nov 2018
EU - In or Out? - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Opportunity. - Tue 22 Jan 2013
Where do we begin? - Tue 13 Nov 2012
To Infinity and Beyond - Wed 5 Sep 2012
Working in Westminster - Sun 1 Jul 2012
A Better Balance - Thu 5 Jan 2012
Capital Shame - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Olympic Feat... - Sun 11 Sep 2011
The Coalition - A year on - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Labour Dreams - Sun 17 Apr 2011
Now we really must mean Business - Thu 10 Mar 2011
Freedom and Responsibility - Sun 9 Jan 2011
A leader for Labour - Thu 4 Nov 2010
Education and Freedom - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Tradition and Words - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Mel Stride - Early Days in Westminster - Tue 6 Jul 2010
Mel Stride Conservative Parliamentary Candidate on The Big Society - Mon 3 May 2010
A look back over my years as Conservative parliamentary candidate and contributor to The Cottage - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Building the homes of the Future means giving Power to the People - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Early memories... - Wed 4 Nov 2009
As General Franco lay dying... - Tue 20 Oct 2009