MP raises importance of local independent retailers in Commons
By GeoffreyCoxMP | Friday, November 26, 2010, 17:29
Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, secured a Parliamentary debate on the future of independent retailers this week, in which he urged Ministers to do more to help high street businesses in rural market towns. In the course of the debate, the MP expressed his dismay at Devon County Council's proposals to introduce parking meters on streets currently available for free parking.
In his speech with which he introduced the debate, Geoffrey Cox congratulated the initiative and determination of local business people who were working hard to help themselves, citing examples such as Tavistock's proposed Business Improvement District and Holsworthy's "Holscard" loyalty scheme.
The MP who has conducted a series of meetings with local businesses in recent months, listed ways in which Local Councils and Whitehall could support small shops and protect them from needless bureaucracy, large chain stores undercutting their prices, and bad planning decisions driving away their customers.
These included proposals for independent retailers to receive extra consideration in the planning process, new requirements for consultation with local traders on giving planning permission to charity shops including the forfeit some of the generous concessionary business rates if they sell brand new rather than donated goods, small business rate relief to be made automatic, small businesses willing to take on an empty shop in high streets receiving a rate holiday, and local councils stopping treating parking charges as a source of revenue and doing more to assess the damage high fees can do to local businesses. He criticised Devon County Council's plan for parking meters, which were not appropriate for some market towns.
But he added that he did not want the debate to become “a depressing, gloomy litany of problems for the high street.” Instead, he pointed out, local businesses were resourceful and imaginative in finding ways to promote themselves and the communities in which they were based.
Speaking after the debate, Geoffrey Cox said: “Times have been tough for independent retailers in recent years, and we need to do all we can to give local firms the support they need. We have already seen some encouraging signs. The reversal of the planned increases in small company corporation tax and in employer's national insurance is welcome, and the Government’s decision, confirmed by the minister in the debate to double the level of small business rate relief in England and to make it automatic will be music to the ears of retailers across the country.
One local businessman I saw a few months ago joked that the best way to start a small business under the previous Government was to buy a big one and wait. Ministers need to make sure that this joke is not still told in the years to come. I remain confident that they will not be found wanting in that regard.”
1. A transcript of the Debate can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101124/halltext/101124h0001.htm