There has been an increase of funding from the Government into the ‘Future High Street Fund’. The figure has risen from £675m to £1bn, a welcome increase to local councils across the UK. There are concerns however that more fundamental changes are required to see a long-lasting difference, rather than a short term fix.
Philip Hammond initially announced the £675m to help boost 50 town centres, but with the added £325m there are now another 50 towns to benefit, giving 100 towns across the country a chance of improvement.
There will be a bidding process, with each town getting a £150,000 share of the funding to develop their plans, then up to £25m could be given to put the plans into action. It is expected that most towns will be awarded around £5-10m, with the Governments aim to get co-funding from local authorities and private firms.
Boris Johnson said “our high streets are right at the heart of our communities” so surely there is support from the top to help make sure they stay as places people want to spend time and money in.
As customer sales have moved more and more online the Government has put in place most measures to try to regenerate the high streets. There is business rates relief available for smaller railers, and strategies to try to help disused or underused spaces and turn them into retail, offices or housing.
Hew Edgar, RICS Head of UK Government Relations and City Strategy has said “the combination of Brexit uncertainty and competition from online retailers mean small independent businesses are finding it harder to stay afloat. That’s why we are calling on the government to review business rates, with the aim of improving the whole system and help provide a shot in the arm for our ailing high streets”.
In February a committee looked into the future of the UK high street, and what needed to be done by 2030. Their recommendations included a sales tax, an increase in VAT and an online sales tax on deliveries, with the revenue used to support the High Street via business rate reduction. They also suggested better and more innovative use of space by retailers to create opportunities that shoppers cannot find online.
In August, more than 50 major UK high street retailers called for a Government overhaul to fix the “broken” Business rates system that we currently have in place. We shall see what happens to the future of our High Streets, as something needs to change.