Business Rates must be reformed to help local businesses on UK high streets compete with online rivals, says Southport Conservative MP Damien Moore.
Mr Moore has also asked the Government to intervene and stop parking charges from “undermining the vitality” of Southport and demanded the removal of controversial pop-up cycle lanes in the town centre.
In the days following Small Business Saturday, the MP is calling on local people to ensure that supporting local firms becomes a way of life.
Speaking in a debate on The Future Of The High Street, Mr Moore said: “One thing that we all know – this is absolutely clear – is that the internet is the biggest challenge to our high street. It has already been said that a fifth of sales and a third of retail sales during the pandemic have been online.
“If we were to reverse that trend, there are things that we need to do. We need to have a look at Business Rates. Business Rates need recalibration because it is absolutely clear that, under the current model, businesses will not be sustainable. If we get to grips with Business Rates, it gives those businesses on our high streets a thriving chance.”
Local businesses should also be helped by ripping up controversial pop-up cycle lanes which Sefton Council introduced in Southport in August. Queens Road was blocked off to traffic, while parking spaces along Hoghton Street were removed to accommodate new cycle lanes.
People are currently being consulted over plans for more cycling and walking access, and reduced traffic, in a large area of Southport between Lord Street and Cemetery Road.
Damien Moore said: “When we look at the future of our high streets, we have not only to look at Business Rates, but to increase footfall.
“Getting people into our towns, villages and cities is absolutely vital to their survival.
“The mess that we see in London, where roads are closed and people are prohibited from going down streets, is happening elsewhere. It is happening in my local area as well. My local Labour council is stopping people from going down streets, from getting to the high street and from getting into the places that they want to get to
“People want ease of access. Having worked in retail for 20 years, I know that ease of access is the best way to get people into our towns and cities.”
Parking charges is another area which needs urgent reform, says Mr Moore.
The MP recently called for parking charges in Southport and the rest of Sefton to be suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic to help local businesses to get back on their feet.
Now he wants the Government to intervene and stop Sefton Council from imposing charges which he believes deters shoppers from supporting local high street businesses.
He said: “I say to the Minister that we do need to intervene when it comes to parking charges.
The biggest issue for every retailer in my town is parking charges. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 says that parking charges should be proportionate, and not undermine the vitality of our towns.
“In my town, those charges do just that, and I want this Government to intervene on that.”
Southport’s Town Deal board, which includes Damien Moore, submitted proposals worth £50million to the Government on October 31 which aim to transform Southport’s fortunes.
The wish list includes funding for a new waterside events centre for the Southport Theatre site, a new immersive light and sound show for the Marine Lake and support for Southport Pleasureland to become an all-year round attraction.
Mr Moore said: “We have a Town Deal, which is great. Not just Conservative towns, but Labour towns, too, will benefit from this significant funding stream.
“In our town, this will be matched by the private sector, which has committed more than £300million if we get the £50million that we put in for.
“Last week, we all went out, I hope, to celebrate Small Business Saturday.
“That should not be an annual celebration; it should be a way of life, and we should all support our local businesses weekly.”