Friday, 25 May 2018

How to revive the health of Sidmouth's high street >>> >>> "The implications for small shops of the business rates debacle was foreseen but ignored by Hugo and his colleagues in the pursuit of other political goals."

Our MP would like to help our high street:

Sidmouth’s MP Sir Hugo Swire vows to take town’s high street woes to Government - and calls for future vision | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

Similar interventions have been made before:

However, the question is really whether he can do very much about it - especially the system of business rates:

Here is a letter recently sent into the Herald on the subject:

Reading the Herald report on the High Street Crisis meeting, I am tempted to ask if Hugo Swire is real or a hologram from the writers of Yes Minister and W1A.

He arrives at the meeting with what looks like an off the shelf pack of solutions dished out by Central Office and shows that he has no real understanding of the second largest town in his constituency. 

He blathers on about ‘identikit’ High Streets but then has to admit that this does not apply to Sidmouth. 

Hugo suggests converting empty shops to affordable housing to bring people into the town.  

Currently there are very few empty shops and many of Sidmouth’s existing shops have accommodation above and behind already.  Even if this was an opportunity, he forgets that EDDC could not afford to buy and convert properties because they have just lost £3.5 million affordable housing contribution that they should have received from the sale of the Knowle.  Also, people in affordable housing can rarely afford to frequent the restaurants and bars that this idea is supposed to generate.

Hugo suggests we need to be inventive in taxing internet companies like Amazon.  Of course, Hugo is a member of the Government that allows Amazon to continue being inventive with its accounting to avoid paying a fair share of its profits in tax.  I am sure many Sidmouth businesses would like to pay taxes at the ratio to turnover that Amazon pays.

Apparently, Hugo knows that parking is a big issue (some wish he was relegated to selling the Big Issue).  He suggests we offer two hours free parking to stimulate trade.  As the available parking is usually full already for much of the year, this will not bring in more people.  A better idea?  Of course, spend ten million pounds that nobody has on a multi-storey car park that will mean closing the town centre car park for at least a year which should kill the town completely. 

Everyone at the meeting knows that the new business rates system is likely to be the big nail in the coffin of our unique High Street.  Hugo is going to ‘lobby like heck’ to get the system changed and suggests local businesses express their views to a Government review of the broken system.  What did Hugo do when plenty of other people were expressing their concerns as his fellow ministers were tampering with the system?  In the last four years there have been 17 Commons debates on business rates, Hugo did not speak in any of them.  His only contribution mentioning business rates was last year in a debate about funding social care when he asked how the changes were going.  The implications for small shops of the business rates debacle was foreseen but ignored by Hugo and his colleagues in the pursuit of other political goals.  Hugo is part of the problem, I am not holding my breath waiting for him to be the solution.

Ed Dolphin

Sidmouth and Ottery breaking news and sport - Sidmouth Herald

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