Vital Help for High Street Shops

7th February 2014
The health and prosperity of our high street shops is vital to the wellbeing of our market towns. Ultimately, it is the Conservative long term economic plan  - reducing the deficit to deal with our debts and to keep mortgage rates low, cutting income tax for the lowest paid and freezing fuel duty, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs by backing small business with lower taxes, capping welfare and immigration and delivering the best schools and skills for young people - that is driving the current recovery and will safeguard their future. 
But over the last two years, in my meetings with our local chambers of commerce, we have identified a series of particular factors that make life much more difficult for our high street shops. I have repeatedly pressed the government to take action and so I was delighted last week when it announced that serious measures are being taken now to help them. 
Small shops, pubs and businesses with a Rateable Value of less than £50,000 will receive £1,000 off their rates bill for the next two years. Local firms taking on an extra property will keep their small business rate relief for an extra year, which could help them expand.  
Similarly, too many charity shops, however worthy the cause, and commercial premises standing empty in the high street, create a poor impression and deter potential customers from visiting. In order to get empty shops back into use, the government is introducing a new reoccupation relief that halves rates for 18 months for local businesses taking on long-term empty high street premises. 
In addition, I have often received complaints from shop owners and customers alike, worried about parking when popping into town to do some shopping, and I have been in regular dialogue with the local authorities about this.  The government will be taking action to discourage over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable parking practices in small towns.
Market towns and bustling high streets are a quintessential part of rural life and of our local economy.  By listening to many of our concerns and cutting the burden on these important local businesses, the government  has shown that it is committed to making them a success.