Mark Whitehead 05 June 2019

Mayor calls for creation of 'free trade zones' in city centres

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has called for a 'wholesale review' of the business rates system to save struggling high streets.

He told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that the retail and manufacturing sectors were hardest hit by the rates and the system must be overhauled to help town centres.

The former John Lewis managing director said a series of reliefs brought in by the chancellor Philip Hammond were not sustainable.

He called for reduced rates for new and expanding businesses, including a 100% relief for public sector organisations which bring their services into high street units.

This would be part of his plan for town centres into 'free trade zones' which would give enhanced powers to local authorities and more support for shops and local businesses.

Mr Street said: 'This ‘free trade zone’ idea would create the special conditions that our town centres need, including reducing business rates, special planning rules, and new town centre funding from a tax on online businesses.

'Here in the West Midlands, we are already making progress with our town centres programme, but there is much more still to do so that we can all be proud of our high streets once more.'

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