Bosses at Chorley Council are calling on the Government to do more to help town centres as we head into the busiest shopping period of the year.
In his autumn statement the Chancellor outlined proposals that will see some town centre businesses benefit from reduced business rates from next year but representatives at the authority don’t believe it goes far enough.
With the retail environment and the face of town centres changing rapidly there are calls for the Government to be more flexible.
Councillor Alistair Bradley (pictured), Leader of Chorley Council, said: “While I welcome the announcement from the Government I believe they can do more by giving us more control over what happens locally.
“In my opinion the business rates system is out of date and isn’t keeping up with the pace of change in town centres.
“Many people think we as a council control the rates but we don’t they are set nationally by the Government and this one size fits approach doesn’t work for everyone.
“Where we have been able to have more control - with the purchase of the Market Walk shopping centre and developments like Primrose Gardens and the youth zone - you can see we are making a real difference and keeping our town centre alive when many others are in steep decline.”
By taking on more control the council believes it could help many independent businesses when they need it most giving local people a town centre they can be proud of while preserving dozens of jobs.
Chorley town centre has an active group of independent traders and by harnessing this enthusiasm for shopping local the council believes it can be an example to towns and cities across the country in how to adapt to changing shopping habits.
“We’ve got a lot of things going for us in Chorley but if the Government doesn’t do more for town centres it’ll be too late and a lot of the independent traders who are the lifeblood of the local economy will have disappeared - partly because they can’t afford business rates that are too rigid and don’t account for local circumstances,” said Councillor Bradley.
“By grasping the issue now and working with us the Government can help be the catalyst for change not just in Chorley but right across Lancashire and the rest of the country.
“One of the biggest challenges facing local businesses is the competition from online shopping and we need more of a level playing field.
“The internet is great and the ability to shop online is really convenient but people still want that social aspect and that’s what our town centres can offer.”