I welcome the report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, High Streets and Town Centres in 2030, which calls on the Government to consider the options of an online sales tax and reforms to business rates.
We believe that high streets and town centres can survive, and thrive, by 2030 if they adapt. Our vision is for activity-based community gathering places where retail is a smaller part of a wider range of uses and activities and where green space, leisure, arts and culture and health and social care services combine with housing to create a space based on social and community interactions.
I spoke at a local business breakfast in Barnstaple recently. I was asked, “How can we revive the high street with online retailers undercutting our businesses?” and “How can we make it fairer for high street businesses?” Local business owners wanted to know more about our policy to reform business rates – I told them about our proposal to abolish business rates and replace them with a Commercial Landowner Levy. But that wasn’t enough for them – they wanted to know about online sales tax and how we could level the playing field. (more…)