// Retail guru Brill Grimsey says business rates should be scrapped and replaced with simpler 2% tax system
// New review calls for town centres and high streets to be run on localised level
// Grimsey says post-COVID-19 presents a “golden opportunity to repair their neglected social fabric” of high streets
The former chief executive of Wickes, Bill Grimsey has recommended high streets take on a “massive shift in power” away from central government, instead empowering local communities to develop their high streets.
In a new review of the high street titled Build, Back, Better, Grimsey argues that for town centres and high streets to thrive after COVID-19, they will need to rediscover their community purpose.
The retail veteran believes this can be achieved by moving power to run the high street away from central government and into local communities.
“Local people must be empowered to redesign their own high streets and have a say on the businesses, services and amenities that occupy it,” said Grimsey.
Local leaders, expansion of green spaces, parks and town squares were also high on Grimsey’s agenda.
“Our towns and cities must no longer be designed solely around the car as people learn to appreciate the benefit of open spaces,” he added.
Whilst the latest Grimsey review stated that COVID-19 had “accelerated the demise of town centres and high streets as shopping destinations,” Grimsey also presented an optimistic outlook for the scale of the task ahead.
“Faced with the huge challenge of rebuilding our high streets, we are presented with a golden opportunity to repair their neglected social fabric, lead a values-led period of social renewal and deliver lasting change.”
Grimsey argued that the challenges faced by high streets are “simply too big for Westminster” and called for local leadership away from government to head up changes.
The review detailed 27 recommendations, including removing business rates and replacing them with a 2 per cent sales tax that will raise the same amount as before and “level the playing field between online and offline retailers”.