Help our High Streets campaign stepped up a gear in Thornbury and Yate
A CAMPAIGN to save South Gloucestershire’s High Streets has been stepped up a gear this week after shopkeepers met council bosses calling for action.
Supporters of the Help our High Streets scheme, started by Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb in response to increasing business rates and the recession, met with South Gloucestershire Council to discuss helping small retailers.
Campaigners, Thornbury Garden Shop owner Sue Aitken and Penni Tanner, who owns Penny Farthings gift shop in Chipping Sodbury, accompanied Mr Webb to the meeting with council officers to discuss their ideas.
Mr Webb said during the meeting it was confirmed that the council now has a bigger incentive to help support local businesses because it stands to retain a bigger proportion of the business rates that are paid.
In the past all business rates were simply passed on to central government, he said, but now councils who support local businesses and boost business rates revenue get to keep more of the money to use for local services.
Mr Webb said: "We had a constructive meeting with council officers and discussed the practicalities of helping local shops through difficult economic times. "The local traders who I have talked to are clear that business rates can be a major cost and one which keeps increasing. The more we can do to relieve the pressure from business rates, the more we will help our high streets."
Sue Aitken said: "Not everyone can shop online and it is only when you visit a local shop that you get a friendly personal service. Local high streets are a vital part of our communities.
"We need local people to support their shops and we also want to see the council giving us their support through action on business rates."
Penni Tanner said: "Our high streets must not turn into chocolate box style museums. We are small businesses who are trying to provide a service to the community and we need the support both of our customers and of the local council if we are to prosper."
The petition is still available to sign online at http://helpourhighstreets.wordpress.com and will be formally presented to the council at a later date.