New West End Company  (NWEC) has launched a manifesto ahead of the general election, calling on the government to prioritise “three key areas” across retail.

Dee Corsi, New West End Company

NWEC chief executive Dee Corsi: “We need to take a long-term approach”

The manifesto stems from insights collected from its hundreds of members.

The West End Business Improvement District (BID), a partnership of 600 UK and international retailers and other businesses in the London area, has set out recommendations for politicians to “drive growth” and “investment” in the UK’s high streets.

The manifesto urges ministers to tackle and prioritise three key areas: economic growth, public safety and planning.

Under the economic growth section, NWEC has said the current business rates system is in “urgent need” of reform and wants a review of the system to consult the retail, leisure and hospitality sector. 

It also outlines the reintroduction of tax-free shopping, which is currently affecting tourist spend, as well as asking the government to address a skills shortage in the retail sector to allow for higher-skilled and better-paid jobs.

Public safety is another issue highlighted in the manifesto, with NWEC calling for a crackdown on organised crime and antisocial behaviour on the high street, more visible policing to tackle retail crime, and a review of the funding model for devolved policing to “reflect the size of crowds, scale of major events and millions of people” that pass through London.

Under the planning section, the manifesto wants the current planning system to be reformed to make it more flexible, as well as improving access for high streets through investment into “essential transport infrastructure”.

NWEC chief executive Dee Corsi said: “As the election nears, ‘growth’ has become a buzzword for both Labour and the Conservatives. But if our nation’s politicians are serious about delivering for the business sector, we need to take a long-term approach that tackles unwieldy business rates, encourages innovation by reforming the rigid planning system and keeps streets safe by remodelling police funding.

“Our manifesto, informed by the more than 600 UK and international businesses that the New West End Company represents, offers any future government a roadmap to do just that.

“In a little under four weeks, the public will have decided on who they want to lead the country. When the nation has had its say, I hope the government will look to the recommendations of the nation’s businesses so that they can deliver on the promise of growth.”

The NWEC manifesto follows Labour pledges to tackle violence against shopworkers and overhaul UK business rates ahead of the general election.