Business rates

In April 2017, business rates underwent their first revaluation for seven years; causing businesses up and down the country to face significant increases to their tax bill.

London businesses were particularly affected by the revaluation, with many West End businesses facing up to 80% increases whilst revenue has only increased 30% over the same period. This is set to lead to an additional £125 million annual bill for the West End.

New West End Company formed an unprecedented alliance of London government and business to call on the Government for a better deal for London businesses. Comprising the Mayor of London, London Councils and the All Party Parliamentary Group for London together with every major London business group and 34 London BIDs, the alliance represented over 16,000 businesses.

Through a prolonged media and lobbying campaign, the alliance persuaded the Chancellor to announce a reduced cap on rate rises for large businesses . This campaign saved West End businesses £10 million over three years compared with the original proposals and and a £300 million new national relief fund, of which Westminster City Council received over £21 million for its large businesses to make
bids.

Despite this victory, the transitional relief measures do not go far enough, with rate increases still threatening to cripple West End and London businesses.

The alliance has also called on the Government to look positively on proposals that enable London businesses to generate the income needed to meet the rise as well as for a wholesale review of the system.

New West End Company commissioned a report by Arup and Professor Tony Travers that examined the failings of the business rates system and looked at ways both to improve it and replace it with a more equitable tax linked to economic performance rather than property values.

Read a summary of the report here.

 

Read the full report here.

In June 2018, New West End Company submitted evidence, based on the Arup report, to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Housing, Communities and Local Government inquiry into ‘High Streets and Town Centres 2030’.

This called for business rates to be replaced by a revenue based tax for online businesses. If set at 1%, this tax would raise over £5bn annually which, if offset against business rates would give business rate payers an average 17.5% cut in their bills. You can see the evidence here.

For more information on our business rates campaign, contact Paul Barnes on pauldavoutbarnes@gmail.com

Sunday trading

Under the 1994 Sunday Trading Act, stores over 250 square metres are allowed to open for a maximum 6 consecutive hours on Sundays, between 10am and 6pm.

Most West End stores open at midday, but would like to stay open later to match the hours of international competitor shopping destinations.

In 2016 New West End Company ran a campaign to extend Sunday trading hours in the West End and Knightsbridge – both designated as International Shopping Centres in the Mayor’s London Plan.

We commissioned research demonstrating that just two extra hours would produce an additional net income of £260 million each year and lead to 2,600 new full time equivalent jobs.

We persuaded the Government to revise the Sunday trading law, the first time any proposal for permanent change has been adopted by government in over 20 years.

However, the government extended the proposal to include all of England and the relevant clause in the Bill failed to win a majority when voted on in the Commons in March 2016.

We are now revisiting our original proposal, to change the laws for designated international shopping centres such as the West End, to provide a boost to the tourism industry following Brexit. We believe that this limited proposal will satisfy the concerns of politicians who opposed an England-wide change.

For more information on our Sunday trading campaign, contact Paul Barnes on pauldavoutbarnes@gmail.com

UK China Visa Alliance

Chinese tourists are the highest spending international tourists. New West End Company is a founding member of the UK China Visa Alliance, established five years ago to increase Chinese visitor numbers by working with government to simplify the visa application process.

The UKCVA produced a detailed report on the issue and proposed practical solutions to enable Chinese visitors to apply. Launched by the Home Secretary, the UKCVA proposals have now become Government policy.

In the campaign’s five years, Chinese visitor numbers have increased by over 150%, outstripping growth in the Schengen area.

We have also formed a working group with VisitBritain and representatives from business, the Home Office and the DCMS to explore a wide range of practical initiatives to attract even more Chinese visitors to the UK.

For more information on our UKCVA campaign, contact Paul Barnes on pauldavoutbarnes@gmail.com

Brexit

Since the EU referendum, West End stores have benefitted from a short-term increase in tourist spend due to the lower value pound. However, the long-term impact of the vote remains a worry for many West End businesses:

  • Rises in import costs leading to higher prices
  • Employment impact on restricted movement of workers from the EU
  • Impact on international tourism
  • Impact on investment in London
  • Changes in domestic consumer confidence

We’re working with partner organisations to ensure the concerns of West End businesses are recognised and addressed by the government during negotiations.

For more information, contact Paul Barnes on pauldavoutbarnes@gmail.com