The Labour Party has announced its proposed strategies for revitalizing high streets across the UK, which includes a significant commitment to replace the current business rates system.

This announcement has garnered attention from various sectors, particularly the hospitality industry, which has long advocated for reforms in business rates. In response, UKHospitality, the leading trade association representing the hospitality sector, has articulated its views on the potential implications of Labour’s proposals.

What’s in the Plan?

Of relevance to the hospitality sector are two key commitments outlined in the proposal:

  1. Replace Business Rates: Labour intends to dismantle the current business rates structure and introduce a fresh system of business property taxation. This reform seeks to rectify the imbalance in taxation burden, leveling the playing field for high street businesses and addressing the competitive advantage enjoyed by online retailers.
  2. Revamp Empty Premises: Acknowledging the detrimental impact of vacant storefronts on the vitality of high streets, Labour proposes granting communities a “right to buy” community assets. This initiative empowers residents to acquire and rejuvenate abandoned premises, including vacant shops and pubs, thereby revitalizing high street areas.

UKHospitality Response

In response to Labour’s proposals, Allen Simpson, Deputy Chief Executive of UKHospitality, emphasized the pivotal role of the hospitality sector in fostering thriving communities. He underscored the industry’s contribution to the vitality of high streets and expressed satisfaction at the renewed focus on addressing the deficiencies of the current business rates system.

“We’re pleased to see this focus on high streets and fixing the broken business rates system,” said Simpson.

“The current system is archaic and unfairly penalizes businesses that have a physical presence in communities, like hospitality. It’s clear that the current system is in urgent need of reform.

Simpson further urged governmental bodies at both national and local levels to collaborate in effecting meaningful change.

“We need to see governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff, alongside local authorities, do all they can to rebalance and reduce the costs that businesses are paying.

“Reforming business rates is an ideal place to start and will enable businesses to spend more of their available cash on investment, rather than just paying the bills.”

The Labour Party’s proposed high street plan holds significant implications for the hospitality industry in the UK. While welcoming these initiatives, UKHospitality has called for concerted efforts from policymakers to expedite reforms and alleviate the financial burdens currently facing businesses. By collaboratively addressing these challenges, stakeholders can pave the way for a more vibrant, resilient, and inclusive high street landscape conducive to sustainable economic growth.