ACS calls for “radical solutions” to save high streets

Councils should be able to raise revenue via a levy on out of town retailers to subsidise rates for high street businesses, according to experts.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is calling on the Government to give Councils the ability to reduce business rates for small businesses and retailers ahead of a hike expected in April next year, in keeping with the Localism Act the Government which allows Councils the power to offer discounted rates to companies in their area.

ACS Chief Executive James Lowman explained that this supermarket tax will aid floundering retailers.

“High street shops are struggling and they face the prospect of another business rates hike in 2013,” he said.

“Government seems to find it impossible to alleviate this burden through action at the national level. This is probably because revenue from retailers accounts for more than a quarter, £5 billion, of the revenue raised through business rates.

“It is therefore time to consider more radical solutions to help ailing high streets. One solution that we would support is to give Councils the power to raise revenue on large out of town retailers, that benefit from large and abundant car parking, and to use the money specifically to reduce the rates burden on in-town retailers. That would be localism in action.”

Last week, ACS joined trade union Usdaw and a host of other retail insiders including Sainsbury‘s CEO Justin King in criticising alleged Government plans to relax Sunday trading laws, claiming that increasing opening hours permanently would not benefit consumers nor staff.

ACS is keen to support schemes that are truly redistributive and as such has not backed the possibility of introducing rate redistribution that would see larger retailers charged higher rates as is the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Lowman explained: “Versions of this policy have been enacted in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although we would argue that for this to be effective it would have to differ from these schemes in two ways.

“First it would require a full local consultation process and second that the legal powers should make it explicit that any money raised had to be reinvested in the high street, not retained into centralised budgets like in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”


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