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BIRA: The independents’ plea for the upcoming election

Andrew Goodacre, ceo of BIRA outlines the key actions for independents ahead of the general election.

The Prime Minister caught many by surprise with the announcement of a general election on 4 July. While the timing was unexpected, at least it dispels the mounting speculation that would have intensified as we approached year’s end.

This election presents an opportune moment for associations like BIRA to advocate our ideas for inclusion in the manifestos of various political parties. We know that when MPs engage with their constituents leading up to polling day, the state of the high street is frequently raised. The general public still values their local high streets, and these prospective MPs would be wise to heed the concerns voiced to them.

From BIRA’s standpoint, we urge independent retailers to reach out to their local candidates and articulate the positive changes you would like to see implemented to assist high street businesses. When we listen to our members, the primary topics from an independent retail perspective are:

Reduce or preferably eliminate business rates. BIRA was instrumental in introducing the retail discount, and now we seek to make it a permanent 75% reduction. We would also like to see the multiplier lowered to 35p in the pound.

Economic growth to bolster consumer confidence and spending. Inflation has subsided but prices remain elevated. BIRA would like to see sustainable plans that stimulate economic growth.

Continued investments in high streets nationwide, with decision-makers consulting independent retailers. Millions have been committed to town centres and high streets, and this momentum must be maintained and accelerated. We aspire to create safe, diverse, vibrant high streets that are readily accessible to all customer groups.

Funding made available and easily accessible to encourage smaller retailers to invest in environmental sustainability and technology.

Reduce the cost burden of operating a high street business. Recent times have seen sharp increases in energy, supply chains, and the national minimum wage. For energy, we need more flexible commercial contracts. For NMW increases, while small retailers want to pay staff a fair wage, we would like to see the employer’s NI allowance increased to offset the impact.

Retail crime has become a real problem for many shops. Steps have been taken to address the growing concerns, and this focus must continue. BIRA wants increased police presence on high streets and better protection for staff and owners.

Review of the Landlord and Tenant Act to provide tenants with better protection, more investment certainty, and the removal of the upward-only rents stipulation.

Numerous other issues concern the small retailer, and I have attempted to identify the primary ones we hear from members. My message to shop owners is to remember that you are constituents, and I urge you all to engage with your local candidates. The election is an opportunity to ‘raise the voice’ of the smaller retailer. The election falls on 4 July – American Independence Day. BIRA will be working tirelessly to make it Independents’ Day.

 

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