Discussing the future of the high street with the Retail Sector Council
The High Streets Task Force met with the Retail Sector Council as part of our remit to coordinate a national approach to high streets.
The Retail Sector Council is the strategic liaison body between government, led by BEIS, and the retail sector. The meeting this week was chaired by Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, and Co-Chair Richard Pennycook, and was attended by CEOs of small and large retailers, leading retail trade associations and unions.
Outlining the work of the Task Force, Executive Director Simon Quin, explained how the Task Force responded to COVID to offer support to local authorities, place partnerships and others working in high streets and outlined the continued support that will be offered until 2024.
Chair of Task Force, Mark Robinson, described the wider role of the Board offering advice to government on issues affecting high streets, noting three areas that impact on the health of the high street that COVID has generated momentum on: taxes on commercial property, approaches to business insolvency and relationships between landlords and tenants and other partners. There was agreement on these as key issues and the opportunity that COVID had created to address them.
Discussions that followed were wide ranging and covered the local capacity for place change, the need for local place leadership and greater engagement by stakeholders in partnerships, the changing nature of town centres and support for local authorities. Questions were asked about how businesses will build a sustainable way to operate in a lower footfall environment.
The Sector Council strongly supported the work of the Task Force and inquired about how businesses represented on the Council could become involved. This would be alongside developing coordination between the Task Force and Sector Council, which already has a dedicated workstream on place, led by Diane Savory who is a Board member of the Task Force.