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    Independent retailers call on political parties to protect UK’s ailing high streets

    (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    Ahead of General Election on July 4, the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) is urging all political parties to make the revival of the independent retail sector a top priority in their manifestos. 

    In a passionate plea, Bira’s CEO Andrew Goodacre said that urgent action is needed from the next government to protect the UK’s ailing high streets and the indies that are their lifeblood. 

    Bira, which works with over 6,000 independent businesses of all sizes across the UK, launched its manifesto to set out a comprehensive vision and series of demands to revitalise town centres, but said it requires genuine political commitment to be realised.

    Key demands in Bira’s manifesto include: 

    • Reduce or preferably eliminate business rates. Bira was instrumental in introducing the retail discount, and now seeks to make it a permanent 75 per cent reduction. It would also like to see the multiplier lowered to 35p in the pound.
    • Implement policies to drive economic growth and bolster consumer confidence and spending. While inflation has subsided, prices remain elevated. Bira wants sustainable plans to stimulate economic growth.
    • Continued and accelerated investment in high streets nationwide, with decision-makers consulting independent retailers. Millions have already been committed but this momentum must continue to create safe, diverse, vibrant high streets accessible to all.
    • Funding made readily available to help smaller retailers invest in environmental sustainability and technology.
    • Reduce the soaring cost burden of operating on the high street, including flexible commercial energy contracts and increasing the employer’s NI allowance to offset National Minimum Wage hikes.
    • Combat the growing threat of retail crime through increased police presence and better protection for staff and owners.
    • Review the Landlord and Tenant Act to provide tenants with better protection, investment certainty, and removal of upward-only rent reviews.

    Goodacre said he was appealing  directly to party leaders to put independent retailers at the forefront of their agenda.

    He said, “The current climate poses grave challenges that threaten these businesses’ very existence and the vibrancy of our high streets. The upcoming election is a pivotal crossroads. We urge all parties to study our manifesto and commit to a new era of policy putting indie retailers first. Their survival underpins our high streets’ identities as community hubs.”

    Bira’s manifesto paints a vision of high streets as diverse spaces fostering sustainability, inclusivity and economic growth. However, it warns this cannot be achieved without major reforms to ease the burden on struggling independent retailers.

    The full ‘Making the High Street Better’ manifesto can be downloaded here.

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