Policy Update: November 2020

Over the past few months, New West End Company has been championing the West End’s International Centre tirelessly to all levels of Government, advocating for policy changes and support that will better the trading conditions for our businesses. From national reforms of tax-free shopping and business rates right through to public realm and licensing, our top priority is to ensure that you, our members & partners, are being supported as best as possible by national, London and local Government as we recover from the pandemic and beyond.

Please see our full policy update below, including our latest policy responses and current campaigns. For more information on any of our updates below, please email info@newwestend.com and a member of the team will get in touch.

NATIONAL

TAX-FREE SHOPPING

We are continuing to coordinate the campaign to overturn the Government’s decision to end tax-free shopping. We have been working closely with National & London trade bodies, public affairs agencies and over one hundred businesses across retail, leisure, hospitality, culture and tourism, under the Association of International Retail (AIR) to maximise resources and coordinate activities. 

  • You can see the Treasury’s Technical Note on VAT RES and airside tax-free shopping here, and AIR’s response here
  • You can read AIR’s response to HMT’s Mythbuster Note here
  • You can read the latest briefing here

In the lead up to the Chancellor’s spending review this Wednesday we have been engaging with HM Treasury, Number 10, backbench Tory MPs, the opposition and in the regions to harness support. This political engagement has been supported by a comprehensive media campaign, with coverage across national and trade publications. This has included an article (online & print) and advertorial (image below) in the Mail on Sunday to highlight the huge impact this decision will have on UK jobs, and further recent coverage in the Financial TimesThe TelegraphGQ and The New York Times to amplify our calls to the Chancellor to review this catastrophic decision.

Our Chairman, Sir Peter Rogers, has written to the Chancellor setting out the key measures of immediate and recovery support for the West End’s International Centre. Click here to read the letter.

The Mayor of London has also written to the Chancellor expressing his dismay at the Government’s decision. Click here to read the letter.

We are also supporting the Judicial Review of the Government’s decision brought forward by Heathrow, Global Blue & Dufry.

Thank you to all the businesses who have supported and promoted this campaign, whether it is through political engagement or media efforts.

BUSINESS RATES

In the short term we are pushing for a one-year extension to the business rates holiday from April 1 2021, particularly for city centre businesses. For the longer term, we have responded to the Government’s call for evidence on fundamental reform of the business rates system, calling for all business taxes to be reviewed to ensure that they are fit for purpose for an increasingly digital 21st century economy. We are seeking to ensure that all businesses, including digital, pay their fair share of taxes to widen the tax baseClick here to read our response to the Government’s call for evidence.

SUNDAY TRADING

In the short term we are supporting calls, from the British Retail Consortium and others, for temporary longer opening hours, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, to enable safer, socially distanced shopping. In the longer term we are promoting calls for the West End and Knightsbridge International Centres to be exempt from the Sunday Trading regulations.

LOCKDOWN CLARITY & CHRISTMAS TRADING

We have been proactively calling for clarity from Government on how the UK will come out of the second lockdown. West End businesses need as much time as possible to be able to prepare for a crucial three-week trading period in the lead up to Christmas, and with speculation of a new, re-enforced tier system, we are calling for urgent clarity. You can read our comments in the Evening Standard here

GLOBAL TRAVEL TASKFORCE

New West End Company, along with leaders in UK tourism wrote to the Prime Minister to stress the importance of an effective and viable testing regime for the UK’s economic recovery. The letter, which you can read here, cited the importance of the testing regime to be in place as soon as possible to allow airports to open up again and ensure that the UK remains globally competitive.

LONDON

CENTRAL LONDON RESILIENCE & RECOVERY

New West End Company continues to promote the resilience and importance of central London to the UK economy. While the pandemic will certainly bring around some permanent changes, we continue to call for the safe and sustainable return of workers and visitors to central London once lockdown has lifted, to help support some of the most hard-hit businesses and to ensure that they can survive and thrive. Click here to listen to Chief Executive, Jace Tyrrell speaking with LBC on the importance of central London and how its fundemental structure will respond to the pandemic. Mr Tyrrell was also invited to the London Assembly’s Economy Committee, where he championed central London resilience. You can watch the full committee session below.

New West End Company also support both the London First and Westminster Property Association recovery plans for London, which you can read in the Evening Standard here and here respectively. 

Alongside this, our Chairman, Sir Peter Rogers, represents the West End on the London Transition Board, jointly Chaired by Mayor of London & Rt Hon Robert Jenrick and at the Mayor of London’s COVID Business Forum.

KEEPING LONDON GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE THROUGH TOURISM

We joined central London business groups in signing a joint letter to the Mayor of London in support of London & Partners and Tourism budgets for London, emphasising the importance that tourism will play in London’s economic recovery from the pandemic. The letter was co-signed by New West End Company, Heart of London Business Alliance, Baker Street Quarter Partnership, The Fitzrovia Partnership, Marble Arch, Paddington Now, Shaftesbury Plc, South Bank BID & Visit GreenwichClick here to read the full letter.

WORKING WITH TRANSPORT FOR LONDONLast month, we, along with other leaders of London’s business community, wrote to the Chancellor to urge him to finalise an appropriate funding agreement with Transport for London as soon as possible to ensure that London’s transport network can continue to play its vital role in both supporting the response to the pandemic and in the economic and social recoveryClick here to read the letter. At our November West End Resilience LIVE, we welcomed London Transport Commissioner, Andy Byford. Mr Byford discussed Transport for London’s measures taken during covid-19, and travel and transport plans for central London as we exit lockdown for a crucial three-week lead up to Christmas. He also discusses his long term challenges and goals for the West End as the new London Transport Commissioner, including getting the new Elizabeth Line open at the earliest opportunity. Click below to watch the full session.

LOCAL

BUSKING & STREET ENTERTAINMENT RESPONSE

New West End Company welcomes Westminster City Council’s draft guidance for busking & street entertainment, not as a means of restricting busking, but as a way of ensuring that it adds to the wider appeal of the West End International Centre. Click here to read our response to the draft Busking & Street Entertainment Policy.

LICENSING & PLANNING RESPONSE

Whilst New West End Company welcomes the additional flexibilities offered in the proposed draft Licensing Policy brought forward by Westminster City Council, we retain a number of significant concerns that will not support growth in the International Centre or the economic recovery post Covid-19. Click here to read our full response and recommendations.

OXFORD STREET, BOND STREET & WEST END VOIDS

We have been working closely with our Oxford Street & Bond Street property owners and Westminster City Council to address the issue of empty units on Oxford Street & Bond Street. Ahead of our reopening on Thursday 3 December, we will be temporarily dressing some of these key units to present our district to colleague and customers returning. This is part of a two year priority programme working with our Property Owners & Agents, London & Partners and Westminster City Council to activate our ground floors with artwork and meanwhile occupancy to represent the heritage and innovation of our world-renowned destination; particularly important as we aim to attract our London & UK customers to return. To find out more about this programme and to participate, please contact alice.murphy@newwestend.com. See below some creative examples:

Mon 23 November 2020