Government should be doing more to take pressure off indies, says retail expert

Bill Grimsey: MP Brandon Lewis “not got enough clout” to revive town centres

Bill Grimsey has called on the Government to appoint a dedicated High Street/town centre minister as MP Brandon Lewis (pictured) has "not got enough clout".

"We need to recognise that town centres and high streets employ 95,000 companies across the supply chain as well as the retail shops," he told PCR. "It’s a bigger sector than any of the sectors that have seats around the cabinet table in number 10. It’s even bigger than health, bigger than education, bigger than defense, and yet there s no High Street/town centre minister there.

"There’s a business minister but it’s not good enough – they need to get one that is going to be strong enough to look at what needs to happen given the technology changes that are impacting our towns.

"When we called for it in our review, the Government did exactly the opposite – six months later they demoted it to a junior minister called Brandon Lewis, who’s a nice guy but he’s not got enough clout. And he’s not going to make a difference to the High Street."

Lewis previously said the Bill Grimsey Review made "some interesting points" but "a lot of it was a load of crap".

Grimsey also believes the Government must do more to help indies.

"Central government needs to take the pressure off independent retailers. That has been applied through this business rates move to delay the revalutation of business rates, which was due in 2013 to be implemented in 2015. They’ve delayed it for two years.

"The big four retailers made a big gain because their shops have gone up in value since 2008 and they’re not going to get revalued until 2017 now. Whereas in smaller towns, particularly in the North and South-West, the rents have fallen dramatically but they’re still paying rates based on a valuation from 2008.

"The Government have failed to [help indies]. We’ve called for it but they’ve not done it. The two per cent cap in the rates rise and £1,000 given back to small retailers is welcome but it’s not enough, it’s too little too late.

"This Government is supposed to be the government of small businesses, but it’s doing absolutely nothing to demonstrate that it is. It is in fact doing the reverse, and allowing big business to profit out of this situation.

So once the towns have a plan, central government needs to take action to ease pressures on these independent retailers now – that’s the most important thing."

Grimsey also said that Mary Portas will not solve the High Street’s problems.

Read the full exclusive interview in the January issue of PCR – you can subscribe to the print version here or view the digital edition here

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