What is promising is that the Chancellor openly recognises the need for the tax system to evolve as the digital economy grows. He starts by introducing a Digital Services Tax from April 2020 which will target 2% of the revenue of certain digital businesses (those who generate global revenues in excess of £500 million per annum). There are question marks around whether this is a suitable replacement for the lack of reform to Corporation Tax, but time will tell.
The hope is that further reform of the tax system in the not too distant future will be more progressive and a little more radical. ATCM will continue to champion structural reform with our members across the UK. Future High Streets Fund and the High Streets Task Force
The government will launch a £675 million fund for England for the regeneration of town centres. This will….. “…invest in town centre infrastructure, including to increase access to high streets and support redevelopment and densification around high streets. It will include £55 million for heritage-based regeneration, restoring historic high streets to boost retail and bring properties back into use as homes, offices and cultural venues.”
The launch of the fund has a lot of potential depending on the criteria used to allocate money. ATCM has lobbied the Minister for High Streets, Jake Berry, about the need to join up the high streets agenda with the Industrial Strategy by focusing on making town centres places of diverse employment opportunities, supporting the co-location of activities like education, creative industries, financial services etc, alongside retail, leisure and hospitality. Enterprise in town centres would give them a new lease of life and boost productivity at the same time through clustering, economies of scale and innovation. However, there is concern about the overriding need to make this about increasing the supply of housing at the expense of commercial space with the Budget also announcing an extension of Permitted Development Rights (PDR).
ATCM remains in favour of more housing in town centres but insists that this must be led by public-private partnerships, including local planning authorities, town centre managers, economic development officers and BIDs, who have a shared interest in supporting the town centre economy. Our previous experience of PDRs, culminating in the erosion of viable, centrally located, footfall generating commercial space, leads us to be fearful of what might come next. Our hope is, this PDR will be limited to make it easier to create mixed-use business models as entrepreneurs experiment and innovative, but ATCM members have already begun voicing their concerns. And the uncomfortable truth is that no local planning authority would or should deny sensible proposals for change-of-use. Is constant deregulation a sign of the erosion of the capacity for local government to undertake proactive place-making because of spending cuts? Planning has been one of the services hardest hit since 2010 and, at a time when town centres are undergoing so much change.
It is clear that ATCM has a lot of work to do following Budget 2018, through the APPG for Town Centres, the CLG Select Committee Inquiry into town centres, directly with the Ministry for Housing and with other government departments to shape the announcements from Budget 2018. The Government and Parliament needs industry engagement to ensure the money being allocated to support town centres is positively used.This is just a fraction of the story of behind Budget 2018. Members can download the ATCM briefing document now from Basecamp, in the public policy folder of the document section on ATCM HQ to get insight into why there is a scenario where Budget 2018 might not be implemented. Need access to Basecamp? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.