William Eichler 08 May 2019

Whitehall ‘unwilling’ to help the high street, committee says

Whitehall ‘unwilling’ to help the high street, committee says image

The Government is ‘unwilling’ to give high streets a ‘fighting chance’ in the battle with online retailers, a select committee has concluded.

A report published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in February concluded that business rates were ‘stacking the odds’ against high street retailers.

It urged Whitehall to initiate reforms to provide relief to high street retailers, including giving consideration to proposals for an online sales tax to level the playing field.

In their response to the report, the Government said that such changes would be ‘extremely challenging’.

‘Most of the reforms suggested by the committee go beyond the current business rates system,’ they said.

‘They would require significant time to consider, consult, legislate, and build the IT and other systems required for implementation and to communicate the changes to business and to the public.

‘Therefore, it would be extremely challenging to introduce them in the short term, or as extensions of the current business rates system.’

The committee chair Clive Betts said he was disappointed by the Government’s response which showed they were ‘unwilling’ to make the ‘radical’ changes necessary to help high street shops.

‘The Government has too readily decided to stick to the status quo, rather than examining the range of radical options to the taxation system that we propose in order to save the high street which it simply dismisses as too challenging,’ he said.

Mr Betts also registered his disappointment at the Government’s rejection of the committee’s recommendation to pause permitted development rights.

The committee urged Whitehall to empower councils to intervene more to support their local high streets. Local Plans, it said, were a key element of this.

However, the report warned that permitted development rights – a national grant of planning permission which bypasses local planning authorities – undermine these plans.

The Government responded by defending PDRs.

‘Permitted development rights make a valuable contribution to supporting development, by simplifying the planning process and reducing the matters that local planning authorities have to consider,’ they said.

‘They provide greater flexibility and freedoms to support our changing high streets and help businesses to adapt and diversify quickly to changes in consumer demands.’

Mr Betts said this was a ‘disappointing’ reply to his committee’s recommendation.

‘There is little point in empowering local authorities to develop plans that address the specific needs of their areas if they can be so easily circumvented,’ he said.

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Principal Flood Risk Officer

Lancashire County Council
£42,683-£46,566
We have an exciting opportunity for a Principal Floor Risk Officer Lancashire
Recuriter: Lancashire County Council

Duke of Edinburgh Youth Support Worker

Essex County Council
£14597.0 - £19106.0 per month
Please note this is a part time contract - annualised hours 106 per year. Therefore the actual salary range is from £995.44 up to £1049.79 per annum. England, Essex, Harlow
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Head of Internal Audit

Kent County Council
Up to £97,000 + benefits
We now have an exciting opportunity to strengthen and shape our Audit function, as... Maidstone, Kent
Recuriter: Kent County Council

Director of Children’s Services

St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council
circa £120,000
This is an exceptional opportunity for someone who wants to make a real difference to the children, young people and families of our Borough. St Helens, Merseyside
Recuriter: St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council

Assistant Director, Social Care & Public Health Commissioning

Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
c£71,000 to £89,000 per annum
Reporting to the Director of Strategic Commissioning you will lead Commissioning in the context of a developing Integrated Care System.  Bolton, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue