One-off tax urged to boost commerce


Mary Portas

A one-off tax should be imposed on major retail chains and leisure groups to fund regeneration of the high street, a review will suggest this week.

Making companies with a UK turnover of more than £10 million in 2014 pay a 0.25% levy would create a fighting fund of £550 million to sponsor start-ups and other high street ventures, according to former Iceland and Wickes chief executive Bill Grimsey

He is launching an alternative review of the future of the high street to that of retail guru Mary Portas, whom he accused of being too "nostalgic" in the Sunday Telegraph.

"I honestly think the time has come for the big chains to put something back and help re-design the high street," Mr Grimsey said today.
"What we've seen in a lot of secondary town centre locations is that as the chains move out to more lucrative out-of-town sites they're hollowing out the high street.

"The big players have made a lot of money out of the high street over the years, and they should put something back.

"They could achieve far more than the Government has and leave a lasting and powerful legacy. If this money was spent wisely it could make a massive difference."

Mr Grimsey said the money should be centrally administered through a group of independent trustees that would include some of the biggest contributors, to give firms confidence in how it was used.

Mr Grimsey's self-funded report - due to be presented at a House of Commons reception on Wednesday - is expected to call for a minister for high streets and say that town retail centres will need to incorporate education, arts, residential, leisure and technology facilities as part of a major overhaul.

They are among 31 expected recommendations in a report that is expected to examine business rates, use of technology to create "networked towns", car parking, access to finance for small business, charity shops and planning regulations.

Ms Portas hit back at Mr Grimsey's attacks on her, saying his attacks were "absolute rubbish".

She told the Daily Telegraph: "I don't want this to turn into a game of attack and return. But we just don't need another report.

"We've got some really big players in the (Portas) Forum - why doesn't he roll his sleeves up and come and join us?"

Ms Portas will appear before the Communities and Local Government select committee to discuss her review, which was completed more than 18 months ago and included recommendations such as setting up 27 "Portas Pilots" that shared £2.3 million of funding.

A £10 million High Street Innovation Fund was also set up to help councils with the highest incidence of empty properties and those most affected by the 2011 riots.

© 2013 Press Association