ALL town centres should have free parking in a dramatic intervention to help save the high street, a major report says today.
In a five-point strategy the Federation of Small Businesses also calls for urgent measures to halt thousands of ATM and bank branch closures that are crippling local firms and driving people away from town centres.
The blight of potholes has also kept people away from the high street and must be urgently fixed, the FSB says.
The blueprint also calls for a freeze in cripplingly high business rates from next April, when the levy is set to rise by another 2.3 per cent.
And it suggests a £1,000 discount on business taxes for all local shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants should also be announced in the Budget.
The burden of high rents, ever-higher taxes, soaring employment costs and pressure of online retailers were creating the “perfect storm in our town centres”.
Laying down the gauntlet to Chancellor Philip Hammond, FSB boss Mike Cherry says it was the Government “takes control of the situation” and inject vital funds into local authorities to help struggling high streets compete with online retail giants.
Sky-high parking charges and a lack of space often puts off shoppers from visiting town centres – instead favouring retail parks where they can park for free.
The FSB calls for more free parking – and new rules that would force town halls to justify any proposed increases to fees.
Presenting the FSB’s high streets plan, Mr Cherry says: “It’s clear the pressure is mounting. Spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents are piling on to small retailers, hospitality businesses and others on the high street.
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“The high cost of town centre parking, poor infrastructure, the blight of potholes and the loss of vital banking services are also ramping up the pressure.
“We know that small business owners are resilient and are used to adapting to market forces. But we want to see Government and local authorities come together to look at real solutions to these issues so that our high streets are not only able to survive, but to thrive.
“We’ve set out five key areas to be targeted, from tackling ever-increasing business rates bills and simplifying the way bills can be appealed, to calling on local councils to increase the amount of free town centre parking.”