Responding to the publication of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s High Streets and Town Centres in 2030 report, Claire Reading, development manager for South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire & The Humber at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “High street businesses are experiencing a turbulent time, with sky high business rates, increasing rents and rocketing employment costs.
“Alongside these challenges there’s also been a seismic shift in the retail sector, with the expansion of large online brands and competition from out-of-town retail space taking its toll.
“Small businesses are at the heart of our communities, providing jobs, bespoke products and a personal service. Yet, despite being key to the success of a town centre, confidence is rock bottom and some are finding it too difficult to stay afloat.
“The report rightly outlines the importance of Government, local authorities and businesses coming together to look at real solutions to these issues so that our high streets are able to thrive. The challenge now is how to work positively to enhance our high streets and town centres in this new landscape.
“Currently the tax system favours big online companies over independent businesses based on the high street, which are already facing a tough trading environment. The broken business rates system penalises firms, regardless of their profits or ability to pay.
“The new business rate discount coming into play in six weeks’ time, should give some relief for smaller firms. Long term, there needs to be a serious overhaul of the unfair tax that hits firms before they’ve had the chance to make their first pound of turnover, let alone profit. We welcome the report’s call for fast action to level the playing field.”