23 October 2015
Rhiannon Curtis, Beacon and Bents Green Party council candidate for the 2016 local elections
The public support business rate reform and rent capping to help small business in South Tyneside
The decline of small business in South Tyneside, most visibly retail, is there for all to see but not all agree on how to halt and reverse this decline. South Tyneside Council have responded with their 365 plan which is funded by council borrowing and focusses very much on the building of new infrastructure to attract large retailers and other businesses to the area. But what of the small business run by local people that remain? Couldn't these be helped and become the focus of regeneration for Shields and South Tyneside more widely? It’s well known that while most of the profits from big business are whisked off to London or (even worse) into a tax haven, profits from small business tend to stay within and circulate within the local community. Stimulating small, local business might be a more reasonable focus for local regeneration than inward investment by large companies.
These were the issues on the South Tyneside Green Party’s mind when they recently undertook an online survey of ideas to help small business in the area. Nine ideas were put to small business owners and the general public in South Tyneside and they were asked to rate them. Some of the ideas are already Green Party policy while others are ideas from local business people and Green Party members about what local councils could implement. The most popular idea, that 82% of respondents liked, was reform of business rates. Business rates are calculated in a way that small business pays proportionately more than large business. A review of business rates has recently been completed and the Conservatives announced at their conference that business rates will be returned to local authority control with local authorities allowed to retain proceeds from business rates. While this sounds positive it could lead to reduced funding for areas with a less developed business culture such as South Tyneside. The Green Party proposes in the interim to give local councils greater control over business rates and eventually replace them with a Land Value Tax (LVT). Roughly speaking this tax is based on ‘desirability’ of a business’s location and would mean that big businesses in prime locations would pay more tax than small local businesses in less in-demand areas. The second most popular idea was rent capping (79% like) to control the private rents on some small business properties that can sometimes be exploitative. This, again, is official policy of the Green Party. Among the most popular of the more innovative ideas proposed by the South Tyneside Green Party was the proposal that local councils could purchase certain retail properties and convert them into in-demand businesses that could draw trade into struggling streets (72% like). Also popular was the idea that councils should refurbish residential properties above shops (68% like).
Rhiannon Curtis, who will stand for the Green Party in Beacon and Bents in May 2016, commented: ‘In some ways this survey is a bit worrying: most people feel that there are really fundamental things wrong with the way small business is promoted in South Tyneside and elsewhere in the UK. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for business rates and rent capping. These will change for the better through the usual routes of long term campaigning and reform in Westminster. On the other hand, we have proposed a number of quite experimental, innovative, ideas that are popular with the public and could be rolled out by the local council with little risk on a small scale and more widely adopted if successful. All this seems especially relevant given recent announcements that South Tyneside has seen rises in social and economic deprivation and job losses through the closure of the Shields branch of B&Q. The local council’s regeneration plan isn’t working. We propose that small business and local business interactions should be at the heart of any town regeneration plan.’
Readers can take the survey HERE
South Tyneside Green Party
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