Cash boost will keep Sussex high streets ‘at the heart of our communities’

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the 2018 Budget on Monday
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the 2018 Budget on Monday

A £1.5billion plan to support our high streets is expected to be announced by the chancellor in Monday’s Budget, the Government has said.

It includes £900million of immediate business rates relief for 496,000 small retailers.

Responding to the Government’s announcement, Brian Woods, chairman of FSB Surrey and West Sussex Region, said it will help keep high streets in Sussex ‘at the heart of our communities’.

He said: “In the lead up to the budget, we’ve been urging the Government to provide targeted support to struggling small firms on our high streets.

“This announcement shows the chancellor has listened and this relief targeting firms in England, is a welcome step in getting the urgent help that all small businesses need.

“This fund will help keep high streets at the heart of our communities.

“Small firms are the lifeblood of our high street. They are under a huge amount of pressure, with current business rates bills adding to that ever-increasing strain.

“For far too long they have come up against an outdated and unfair rates system and it’s clear that change is needed.

“To make a real difference to every high street, this relief needs to include hospitality and service businesses, not just retailers, and we will be looking forward to hearing more details from the Government on this.

“The high cost of town centre parking and poor infrastructure has also been ramping up the pressure on small high street firms. This investment in transport and infrastructure must be targeted at fixing potholes, improving local roads and providing more free parking to encourage shoppers to the high street.”

In the chancellor’s budget speech, he is set to launch a £650million fund to transform local high streets so that they can remain firmly at the heart of communities, returning a vibrancy to towns and cities up and down the country, a spokesman for the Government said.

They added: “A new business rates relief targeted at small retailers will knock a third off their bills, building on over £10billion of business rates support since 2016 to help bricks-and-mortar firms.

“This will mean, for example, that a pub in Sheffield with a rateable value (an estimate of the rental cost of the building) of £37,750 will save £6,178 on business rates next year. And a newsagent in Moseley, Birmingham with a rateable value of £14,250 will save £1,749.

“This package will provide short-term relief for struggling retailers and a long-term vision for town centres, helping them to meet the new challenges brought about by our changing shopping habits.”

A Future High Streets Fund of £650million will go towards improving infrastructure and transport access, the Government said.

It will also support local areas to redevelop under-used retail space into homes and offices, providing help to restore high street properties and put historic buildings back into use.

“Over the next four years, towns and cities will have the power to decide how they spend the money to help their local high streets,” said a spokesman.

“Having listened to campaigners, businesses and the industry, it is also expected that the chancellor will look to relax town planning rules, to support new mixed-use businesses on the high street and the conversion of under-used retail units into offices and homes.

“This is expected to be accompanied by support for local leadership to prepare and implement new strategies for their high street, including a new £2million High Streets Taskforce to offer support and advice to help revitalise high streets.”

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