A major new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has on Friday revealed how small businesses facing an uphill battle to survive, want to be supported so they can play their part in transforming high streets. That is why in addition to making funding available to local authorities and other public bodies through the Future of the High Streets and Stronger Towns Fund, FSB want to see small businesses directly supported to they can lead the way in transforming our high streets.
The report found in the London region, that 51% of small businesses had a positive feeling or something good to say about their local high street, this compares to the national average of 41%.
Many small firms are eager to engage with other businesses as part of community action to help their local economies thrive, and measures can be taken to create a more ‘business friendly ecosystem’ around our high streets. This includes an increased provision of free car parking as well as fixing potholes and freeing up planning red tape so that small businesses can innovate and develop mixed goods and services business models.
Action at the local level is just as important as that by central government. Which is why FSB is calling on local authorities in England to act by introducing measures such as the expansion of free or discounted parking to attract shoppers to a high street, especially at a time when large anchor stores are closing.
Local authorities and community groups should be able to access pots of funding to bring long term empty units into use, which may involve converting them into new uses. Access to cash remains of central importance to smaller businesses on the high streets.
Our research shows that almost one in six rely on having a local bank branch to make regular cash deposits and that cash remains the second most commonly used method of payment used by them.
That is why we are calling for local authorities to make provision for easy access to cash on the high street. This could be done by introducing discretionary business rates relief to cover the costs of installing ATMs in businesses premises. They should also arrange for improved cash depositing services for small businesses on the high street where none other exist.”
However, key issues such as business rates, controlled by central government need to be addressed urgently in the upcoming Budget if we are to unlock the potential of small businesses on our high streets.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) London Regional Chair, Michael Lassman said, “High streets are at the heart of our communities. They are the epicentre of villages, towns and cities right across the country, but for many, these are difficult times.
“Of these, more than 600 high streets are located in London’s boroughs.
“Small businesses are ready and willing to take on a role with almost a third of those on high streets taking a role in the local leadership of the high street, and many more wishing to get involved. However, the fact remains that small businesses need urgent direct support to enable them to be at the vanguard of the transformation of the high street.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but in order to thrive they need the right support, and it’s time that the government takes action now to help secure the future of these firms.
“Business rates have long been a painful thorn in the side of businesses, and that struggle has only intensified. Our research shows that without the business rates relief, a staggering 38 per cent of small businesses on the high street would not survive. This just goes to show how regressive and unfair the rates are on small firms. That is why we’re calling on the government to further extend the scope and duration of the ‘Retailers Relief’ and to remove the rateable value ceiling of £2,899 on second business premises in England.
“But it’s also critical that local authorities take action too. Measures such as the expansion of free or discounted parking is a simple way to encourage shoppers to a high street, especially at a time when large anchor stores are closing.
“There are however positives to highlight as well, with almost a third of businesses taking some role in local leadership of the high street, and many more wishing to get involved.
“As high streets evolve, we’re seeing a rise in independent businesses and many small firms engaged in Business Improvement Districts and Local Enterprise Partnerships as well as other community groups.
“These organised community efforts can act as positive influences for towns and their high streets as well as the wider economy.
“Small businesses are at the very heart of our communities and are the future of our high streets, which is why with the right support they’ll continue to be so for generations to come.”