BRC and retailers ask MPs to step-in to help ailing high streets

In the wake of the news that town centre shop vacancy rates have reached an all-time high of 11.3 per cent, retailers have joined with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to get MPs behind their plans.

The BRC is now asking MPs to prioritise reinvigorating their local high streets, which, according to a recent poll of MPs, have “noticeably deteriorated” over the past five years.

Business rates are set for a 2.6 per cent rise during 2013 and the BRC is asking MPs to join in asking the Government to stop this, with BRC director general Helen Dickinson commenting that “MPs understand that high streets are focal points for communities and are essential to local economies.

But many high streets are facing a real endurance test in these challenging times, and rising operating costs are making matters worse.”

Figures recently released have shown that shop vacancy rates are at their highest in Northern Ireland at 20 per cent, which is followed by Wales at 15.1 per cent and the north and Yorkshire region with 14.6 per cent.

The south east fared best, with high street vacancies at 8.8 per cent, and the BRC director general still feels the support of MPs can help persuade the Government to help the high street.

“The Autumn Statement didn’t include a pledge to freeze business rates next year, but there’s still time for the Government to do the right thing. Another steep rise would pose a serious threat to vulnerable town centres and mean fewer jobs, especially for young people,” she added.

“Two-thirds of MPs have already told us that they support a rates freeze next year – I urge them to keep pushing for change if they want to breathe life back into our town centres and preserve and protect local businesses.”

The BRC is currently running campaigns with retail publications to lobby the Government into freezing the planned business rates increase, and more information can be found at its website.

The news comes after a CBI survey said that December brought with it a lull on the high street.

Image: Mary Portas, who recently spearheaded a government programme to reinvigorate the nation’s high streets. 

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