Dominic Browne 04 February 2013

Councils accused of using high streets as 'cash cows'

A leading financial administrator has accused councils of contributing to the demise of the UK high street with excessive local charges.

Lee Manning, lead administrator for failed firm Blockbuster, has accused local authorities of being ‘obsessed’ with using high street retail as a cash cow rather supporting the struggling sector and supporting growth.

‘Local authorities have obsessed with raising revenues from parking at the expense of the shops that bring people to those high streets,’ he told the Telegraph newspaper.

Manning, also a partner at accountancy giant Deloitte, accepted other factors such as online competition were important but said central and local government had done too little to help.

He said the Government’s tie-up with local authorities and Mary Portas, the retail expert, to help save local high streets was too little, too late.

He also highlighted that even when shops close down, landlords have to pay the council the rates for the property, meaning there is little or no financial impact on authorities if retailers go bust.

Since the beginning of the year administrations at HMV, Blockbuster, and Jessops have put 10,300 jobs at risk, with a potential 1,000 store closures on the cards.

In conclusion, Manning gave a grim analysis of the prospects for retail, commenting that it was ‘all over’ for the British high street.

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