The Labour Party has enlisted the help of high street champion Bill Grimsey to support its plans to re-energise ailing town centres.
Grimsey, who penned a report on the high street last year, will go on a national tour to examine the challenges faced by our high streets as part of Labour’s High Streets Advisory Group.
Grimsey, the former boss of Wickes and Focus, will highlight Labour’s plans to freeze business rates in 2015, should it get into power.
The Advisory Group will be looking for “successful examples of high street rejuvenation and entrepreneurial activity across the country”. It will also give advice on how new ideas such as pop-up shops and local entrepreneurial networks can be encouraged.
Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said: “There have been some bright spots for small businesses like the recent Small Business Saturday, which was such a huge success, boosting spending in small and independent shops and highlighting what the high street can offer.
“But we also know many firms are facing the struggle of the cost of doing business, and none more so than the impact of business rates. I’m pleased that Bill Grimsey will be helping us talk to employers and employees about our business rates cut and to understand the challenges they face.
“Bill and other members of our Advisory Group will bring huge experience and help us listen to as many businesses as possible about what they need to grow and how we can support the high street.
Grimsey said: “Small businesses are being heavily squeezed by big rises in business rates and this is pushing many over the edge. In producing my report I saw just how big an impact business rates have on high street shops. Businesses have been crying out for help for years and Labour’s announcement is a big step in the right direction.
“I’m pleased to be able to go around the country looking at how we can not only cut business rates but put in place the types of measures I’ve laid out to give small businesses the chance to grow, and also encourage entrepreneurs to set up high street ventures.”