Covid Recovery Campaigning
With footfall at just 27% of last years, half that of UK high streets, the West End is facing an economic crisis which threatens its future as a global shopping, entertainment and business centre.
We are calling on the Government to focus on five key areas:
- Transport: encourage people to use trains, tubes and buses
- Consumer confidence: encourage more people back into the West End
- International visitors: attract more high spending international visitors
- Business support: extend businesses support for companies still unable to operate effectively
- Planning, licencing and regulation: greater flexibility to enable recovery and growth
Click here to see a summary document on these five key asks and three issues raised in a letter to the Mayor.
We appreciate that all of us are undergoing an extremely difficult time as we tackle the impact of COVID-19. We would be happy to discuss these issues and how we can continue to work together to support London’s businesses and jobs.
If you or your colleagues would like to discuss any of these issues, please contact myself or our Head of Advocacy, Paul Barnes, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In April 2017, business rates underwent their first revaluation for seven years; causing businesses up and down the country to face significant increases to their tax bill.
London businesses were particularly affected by the revaluation, with many West End businesses facing up to 80% increases whilst revenue has only increased 30% over the same period. This is set to lead to an additional £125 million annual bill for the West End.
New West End Company formed an unprecedented alliance of London government and business to call on the Government for a better deal for London businesses. Comprising the Mayor of London, London Councils and the All Party Parliamentary Group for London together with every major London business group and 34 London BIDs, the alliance represented over 16,000 businesses.
Through a prolonged media and lobbying campaign, the alliance persuaded the Chancellor to announce a reduced cap on rate rises for large businesses . This campaign saved West End businesses £10 million over three years compared with the original proposals and a £300 million new national relief fund, of which Westminster City Council received over £21 million for its large businesses to make
In 2018 New West End Company commissioned a report by Arup and Professor Tony Travers that examined the failings of the business rates system and looked at ways both to improve it and replace it with a more equitable tax linked to economic performance rather than property values.
In June 2018, New West End Company submitted evidence, based on the Arup report, to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Housing, Communities and Local Government inquiry into ‘High Streets and Town Centres 2030’.
This called for business rates to be replaced by a revenue based tax for online businesses. If set at 1%, this tax would raise over £5bn annually which, if offset against business rates would give business rate payers an average 17.5% cut in their bills. You can see the evidence here.
In the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced relief for smaller businesses. Although this did not impact the majority of businesses in the West End, we support the move as a step in the right direction and will continue to campaign for a complete review of business taxation.
In September 2020 New West End Company responded to the Government’s call for evidence in the Business Rates Review following the introduction of rates relief during Covid-19. You can read our evidence for reform here.
For more information on our business rates campaign, contact Paul Barnes on email@example.com
Under the 1994 Sunday Trading Act, stores over 250 square metres are allowed to open for a maximum 6 consecutive hours on Sundays, between 10am and 6pm.
Most West End stores open at midday, but would like to stay open later to match the hours of international competitor shopping destinations.
In 2016 New West End Company ran a campaign to extend Sunday trading hours in the West End and Knightsbridge – both designated as International Shopping Centres in the Mayor’s London Plan.
We commissioned research demonstrating that just two extra hours would produce an additional net income of £260 million each year and lead to 2,600 new full time equivalent jobs.
We persuaded the Government to revise the Sunday trading law, the first time any proposal for permanent change has been adopted by government in over 20 years.
However, the government extended the proposal to include all of England and the relevant clause in the Bill failed to win a majority when voted on in the Commons in March 2016.
We are now revisiting our original proposal, to change the laws for designated international shopping centres such as the West End, to provide a boost to the tourism industry following Brexit. We believe that this limited proposal will satisfy the concerns of politicians who opposed an England-wide change.
For more information on our Sunday trading campaign, contact Paul Barnes on firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax-free shopping is a major attraction for international visitors but the system needs improvement. 70% of all international visitors to the UK are from EU member states but they are currently excluded from its tax free shopping scheme. Including them post Brexit could add up to £1.4 billion in retail sales annually and give an overall benefit of £2.1 billion to the UK economy.
When the UK leaves the EU, British shoppers will automatically be eligible for tax-free shopping in the EU, but UK regulations will still contain the element that excludes EU member states.
New West End Company are calling for the Government to extend tax-free shopping to visitors from EUmember states after Brexit.
In addition to this, we are also calling for the rapid digitalisation of tax-free shopping. While most retailers have a digital system for recording tax-free sales instore, the validation and refund elements, undertaken by HMRC, are still paper-based. This means that international visitors have to queue at Heathrow to get their receipts validated and refunded, causing long delays and unnecessary inconvenience.
Last October the entire tax-free shopping sector, led by New West End Company, wrote to the Chancellor calling on HMRC to abandon its suggested method, which is costly, risky and has failed to deliver results. Instead, we want HMRC to adopt the global standard accepted by every other country and simply create the digital verification link to existing retailer systems.
New West End Company also met the Financial Secretary of the Treasury to urge HMRC to adress both issues and the Minister responded very positively on both issues.
In September 2020, the Government announced that it would be end the VAT RES (tax-free shopping) scheme for visitors from ALL countries in the UK on 31 December 2020.
It states that under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules it must, when Britain leaves the EU, treat visitors from all countries in the same way. This means it must offer the scheme to all visitors or none.
With this decision, Britain will be the only company in Europe not to offer tax free shopping, losing a £3.5 billion sector and undermining Britain’s global appeal and competitiveness.
Since the announcement , New West End Company, along with the British Retail Consortium (BRC)¸ Association of International Retail (AIR), Walpole and colleagues in retail, tourism and airlines across the UK have launched a campaign to convince the Government to overturn what is such a damaging decision. Click here to read more.
For more information on our continuing tax-free shopping campaign, contact Paul Barnes on email@example.com
UK China Visitor Alliance
Chinese tourists are the highest spending international tourists. New West End Company is a founding member of the UK China Visitor Alliance (UKCVA), established five years ago to increase Chinese visitor numbers by working with government to simplify the visa application process.
The UKCVA produced a detailed report on the issue and proposed practical solutions to enable Chinese visitors to apply. Launched by the Home Secretary, the UKCVA proposals have now become Government policy.
In the campaign’s five years, Chinese visitor numbers have increased by over 150%, outstripping growth in the Schengen area.
We have also formed a working group with VisitBritain and representatives from business, the Home Office and the DCMS to explore a wide range of practical initiatives to attract even more Chinese visitors to the UK.
For more information on our UKCVA campaign, contact Paul Barnes on firstname.lastname@example.org
After the EU referendum, West End stores benefitted from a short-term increase in tourist spend due to the lower value pound. However, the long-term impact of the vote remains a risk for many West End businesses:
- Rises in import costs leading to higher prices
- Employment impact on restricted movement of workers from the EU
- Impact on international tourism
- Impact on investment in London
- Changes in domestic consumer confidence
We’re working with partner organisations to ensure the concerns of West End businesses are recognised and addressed by the government during negotiations.
For more information, contact Paul Barnes on email@example.com