It is great news to see that the Government recognises that high streets lie at the heart of our community and that they need some injection of cash to assist them in these difficult times whilst shopping habits are changing.
We welcome the cut to business rates for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 and below, reducing costs by a third. This will benefit about 40% of Putney’s smaller and independent retailers and will be very much appreciated. However, this will not help our medium and larger businesses which have been hardest hit by the rate rises. It is in this category we have seen most closures which leaves large vacant units and job losses.
The underlying issue is that the business rates burden is simply too high and unsustainable with people now having the option to buy online. Online retailers are able to offer competitive prices, more choice and greater convenience than many high street competitors. Although a short term welcome relief, the Government needs to look at the system in more detail and level the playing field with online businesses.
On a positive note, we look forward to working with Wandsworth Council and other partners to see how Putney can benefit from the new £675 million future High Streets Fund which has been introduced for investment in physical infrastructure. We understand that Putney MP – Justine Greening – had a part in lobbying for this fund, so now we need to make sure some of the money comes back to Putney. More details on this fund will come out in early 2019.