Simon Danczuk MP

Fighting for Rochdale, Littleborough and Milnrow

Letter from Parliament 29 April

This week, much of the debate in the House of Commons has focused on the the collapse of British Home Stores and what that means for both their pensioners and its 11,000 staff.

Many of my colleagues have had their say about the alleged mismanagement of the iconic retailer. I have no doubt that the truth about how this once profitable business has been brought to the brink of collapse will be exposed in the weeks and months to come.

But there is a wider issue here about our towns and city centres, and the future of our high street businesses no matter how well managed they are.

More than ever, both national chains and independent high street shops are fighting to survive in a difficult economic climate and an increasingly competitive market.

The internet and out of town retail parks are putting a real squeeze on the high street and Government policy is not helping.

Last week I took part in a Parliamentary debate on George Osborne’s so called “national living wage” and the impact this will have on retailers which are already struggling to cope with inflated business rates.

As chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops I am particularly concerned about the impact this pay rise will have on independent retailers.

Small businesses employ 35% of the nation’s workforce, but they employ more than half of those who are on the minimum wage.

While the mega-chains may be able to absorb the extra cost, some will not, and smaller shops will be forced to put up prices and delay recruitment, having a significant impact on local communities.

Help is on the horizon in the form of significant business rate reforms which will see many of the smallest shops lifted out of rates altogether. But instead of timing this to coincide with the introduction of the new wage earlier this month, business owners will have to wait until April 2017 for this relief.

This poor timing and complete absence of planning could see many small shops go to the wall in the next 12 months.

Without a significant support package, the coming year could see many more smaller and even larger stores suffer the same fate as BHS.

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