Today marks the day that the UK formally leaves the EU, over three and a half years after the 2016 Referendum. While the full details of our future relationship with the EU are not yet clear, today takes us one step closer to ending the uncertainty and gives us the ability to start moving forward. Our role at New West End Company is to maximise opportunities for our 600 member businesses, and ensure that as an International Centre, the West End can continue to thrive on the global stage.
As 2020 gets underway, New West End Company’s aim is to represent, protect and enhance your West End business interests, to drive prosperity, and to work collectively to ensure we remain globally competitive for both visitors and investors. We do this within the context of major social and environmental challenges to which we, like all responsible businesses, are responding for the wellbeing of our businesses, the people that visit and work in the West End, and for the future of our planet. In particular the West End needs to pool knowledge, expertise and resources to help address climate change if we are to achieve our goal of becoming a net zero carbon emissions district.
Our advocacy campaigns this year covers all levels of Government, from national reform of Sunday trading regulations, business rates and tax-free shopping, to local policies, such as air quality and public realm investment. I recently set out our priorities in an interview in Retail Gazette, which you can read here.
Having successfully campaigned for the geographical definition of the two International Centres identified in the Mayor’s London plan (the West End and Knightsbridge), our advocacy campaigns are focused on policy changes that will specifically enhance the business activities of these districts.
Please see below for a more in-depth description of our advocacy work this year.
- We are working to add stores in the International Centres to the list of exclusions to the current Sunday trading regulations. This will remove a major competitive disadvantage we face with other global retail centres. We estimate it will add at least £260 million net additional sales in the West End every year, most from international visitors
- We are also campaigning for changes to the tax-free shopping system; firstly to digitalise the current system and secondly to extend the scheme to visitors from EU member states after the UK leaves. Including them post-Brexit could add up to £1.4 billion in retail sales annually, much of it in the West End, and give an overall benefit of £2.1 billion to the UK economy.
- Our third key focus at a national level is reforming the business rates system, by supporting national trade organisations to call for a review to all business taxation to ensure that they are fit for purpose in an increasingly digital, 21st century economy.
- Working with Westminster Property Association and London First, we will continue to campaign to ensure the City Plan allows for flexible uses in the International Centre to meet changing retail trends and also provides for sufficient new commercial development to accommodate forecast job growth numbers. You can see our submission here.
- Our position as an International Centre will shape our engagement with the mayoral candidates leading up to the election in May. We will urge all candidates to prioritise air quality and support our plans to be the first zero emissions zone. We will also press that the International Centres are ensured the correct investment in both policing and public realm, particularly at our gateways of Oxford Circus and Marble Arch, to enable the West End to retain the standards of safeguarding and placemaking appropriate for an international centre.
- We are also continuing our £3-year multi-million pound marketing strategy with London & Partners, to drive significant domestic visitors to London. You can find out more about the significance of this programme here.
- We started the year with a new MP for Westminster, the former leader of Westminster City Council, Nickie Aiken, and this month have welcomed a new Leader of the City Council, Cllr Rachael Robathan. Over the following months we will be meeting her and her new Cabinet Members to engage them on our key local policy and service issues.
- The appointment of the building and design firms for the £230 million Oxford Street District transformation last year signalled a significant step forward in getting the project off the ground and we will work closely with the City Council to ensure that the project stays on track for delivery by 2022.
- Sustainability and air quality in the West End are top of the agenda for this year, and we are working closely with Westminster City Council to support its ambition to be a zero carbon City by 2040 (click here to read and respond to its Air Quality Action Plan). With this in mind, we will also continue to work collectively with the four West End resident forums, to deliver projects that will make our neighbourhoods more environmentally sustainable and innovative.
- Our Cleansing & Security Teams continue to work closely with the City Council and the Metropolitan Police Service to ensure that the West End remains a safe and clean place for customers, employees and residents alike.
For more information on our advocacy work, please contact Paul Barnes, Head of Advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org