During this General Election, we at downhamweb quizzed the candidates standing in South West Norfolk. Look out for our other posts in our #GE2019 series.
We asked the candidates: Look down our High Streets and you can see an array of ‘To Let’ and ‘For Sale’ signs appearing. Our town centres are fast emptying of shops, and independent retailers in particular are struggling to remain open. What is your plan to bring life back into our town centres?
Pallavi Devulapalli – Green Party
I believe town centres can be made much more attractive by making them car free zones. Better public transport will make town centres much more attractive and accessible. Market and independent traders need to be incentivised through low business rates so they can display and sell their produce. I will work to make it easier for low carbon sustainable stores and market stalls to be given easier access to stalls/shop floor space etc, all of which will draw people to town centres.
Josie Ratcliffe – Liberal Democrats
Reforming Business Rates is one of the most important aspects here – they unfairly squeeze a lot of smaller retailers. I want to see Business Rates replaced cost-neutrally with a commercial land levy, which switches the tax burden to landlords, helps control rent hikes, and more fairly captures the rental value of the property. Importantly, the proposed commercial levy is a tax that’s based on rental value, so the cost can’t simply be passed on to businesses via rent increases as these would just lead to the tax increasing to take account of that.
As well as tax changes we also need to support startups better, and it’s Lib Dem policy to provide support for areas like living costs for the first year or so of new independent businesses operating – it often takes a year or so for a new shop to get known and build up a base of clients, and by providing support for that period we can give far more startups a chance to thrive. We also need people to feel they have the time to go shopping – too many people just don’t feel they have the money or time, and we need to take measures to Finally, we need to ensure that people can actually visit our high streets, which comes back to the need to improve connectivity and transport.
Emily Blake – Labour Party
Labour want to help businesses who are struggling to stay open in our high streets. We also want to give control to councils and communities to utilise empty buildings. Imagine them being used for community projects rather than sat there going derelict. It is a really exciting prospect. I would personally love to run my own confidence building sessions for all ages and teach public speaking and other life skills and run a social cafe where people can make new friends and learn new skills. Labour will also stop bank branch closures and ban ATM charges. Labour understand that business rates are affecting local businesses and will review the option of a land value tax on commercial landlords as an alternative. Post office closures will be stopped and the Royal Mail returned to public ownership. What I find really exciting is Labours proposal of a Business Development Agency that would be based in the post offices, giving advice and support to entrepreneurs. Pubs are closing at an extortionate rate, they provide a meeting place for people which is especially valued in rural areas. Labour want to give communities the first chance to buy them when they are facing closure, listing them as assets of community value (ACV) Residents of Stoke Ferry will closely relate to this issue with the closure and potential loss of the pub The Blue Bell. It’s important we give as much support to residents as possible in these situations. Standards will be set for libraries and they will be updated with wifi and computers. Labour want local councils and communities to have more power and say and the aim is to keep as much money as possible within the community.
The other candidates are Liz Truss (Conservative) and Earl Elvis of Outwell (Monster Raving Loony).