"Highstreets are being crippled by government policy" says Batley and Spen MP

Tracy Brabin MP.
Tracy Brabin MP.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin has lashed out at the Government for business policies she claims are ‘crippling our high streets’.

Ms Brabin followed senior Tory Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown in condemning current business rate levels, claiming small businesses are paying over the odds.

Shops in Cleckheaton.

Shops in Cleckheaton.

She said: “There are many reasons for the decline of our high streets, and the meteoric rise in online shopping has undoubtedly had a huge impact – but this cannot be viewed in isolation.

“Our small, independent high street businesses are being hit with massive hikes in business rates while big supermarkets have their rate cuts and online retailers such as Amazon pay just a fraction of their multi-billion pound UK turnover in rates.

“For many of the small businesses who would have set-up shop in years gone by, it would simply no longer be financially feasible.

“This increasing cost, set against a backdrop of bank branch, post office closures and the underfunding of public transport links, is crippling our high streets and it cannot continue.”

In a heated Commons debate last week, Mr Clifton-Brown questioned his own party’s handling of small businesses, claiming they should benefit from a “personal allowance” like in the income tax system, exempting them from business rates.

In reply, Tory Treasury Minister Mel Stride said: “High streets face a variety of challenges, of which business rates is but one. “One of the greatest challenges they face is the change in how we are now shopping, with just over 18 per cent of all retail now going online; that presents a huge challenge and that number is likely to increase in time.

“That tells us that high streets will need to transition, reinvent themselves, change and come up with new ways to serve their local communities and drive traffic into our high streets.”

Ms Brabin said that this is a notion businesses in her constituency have already bought into: “It’s clear from my many conversations with local businesses that they are willing to embrace change.

“But they have also told me that if they are to survive, flourish and continue to provide the services on which so many people rely, they need action.

“At the recent Labour Party conference we unveiled a transformative five-point plan to help reinvigorate our town centres which includes stopping bank and post office closures and introducing annual revaluations of business rates while reviewing the system to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century.

“We are listening to businesses, and I implore the Tory Government to do the same.”

This article is part of the Reporter series' Love Your Highstreet campaign. Together with titles across Johnstone Press Yorkshire, the Dewsbury Reporter, Batley & Birstall News and Spenborough Guardian will work tirelessly to promote independent shops, restaurants and bars in order to get customers off their sofas and onto their highstreets.

If you're a small business with a story to tell, get in touch by emailing alex.miller@jpress.co.uk.