The government should reform tax policies to save UK high streets from becoming ghost towns, according to MPs.
Current policies are weighed too much in favour of online giants like Amazon, the houses, communities and local government committee said, as well-known high street retailers are forced to close or cut back on their stores.
The committee is calling for a shake-up in business rates to take the pressure off physical shops – and said an online sales tax should be considered too.
In a new report, the committee said councils should be given extra funding for town centre redevelopment. Acknowledging that the days of retail ruling the high street might be over, the MPs said local councils and businesses should team up to regenerate town centres.
In a report by the British Retail Consortium industry body, researchers said a third of retailers will hand down redundancies in the coming months.
Committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “This need not be [the high street’s] death knell. Local authorities must get to grips with the fact that their town centres need to change; they need to innovate, setting out a long-term strategy for renewal, reconfiguring the town centre and finding new ways of using buildings and encouraging new independent retailers.”
The MP added that outdated planning policies were “stacking the odds against businesses with a high street presence,” which “must end”.
It is not just shops which need the high street to thrive. Big Issue vendors depend on busy town centres to make a living. Chris Falchi-Stead, director of sales and operations for The Big Issue, said: “Our vendors continue to report back to us that it is becoming harder to sell the magazine as stores close, and people move online to do their shopping.
“High streets are the beating heart of towns and cities up and down the country, and if we see a continued decline it will become increasingly difficult to sell.”