The Liberal Democrats have set out a comprehensive plan ahead of the local elections to support struggling high streets across England, including for Barnstaple town centre.
Kirsten Johnson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Devon, described the plans as “exactly the sort of policy we need to boost local investment and ensure businesses in North Devon thrive”.
The proposals, agreed by Liberal Democrats at their Spring Conference in York, set out plans that would:
- Boost support for local entrepreneurs, including subsidised work space and business support for start-ups.
- Reform planning law, enabling councils to ensure that commercial space is used flexibly and efficiently.
- Introduce publicly-accessible local asset registers, enabling local entrepreneurs to identify promising business opportunities.
- Use local insights to improve customers’ experiences, including by providing free public Wi-Fi.
- Create a new industry-led body to help retailers adapt to the digital economy.
The Liberal Democrats are also campaigning to replace the broken business rates system with a tax on land values, cutting taxes for businesses by 19% in North Devon.
Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Tim Farron said: “With shops closing and too many people losing their jobs, there can be no doubt that our high streets are in crisis. The absolute mess the Tories have made of Brexit bears some of the blame, but the roots of this crisis run far deeper.”
“From the rise of online retail to the burden of business rates and local planning failures, people are crying out for solutions. It doesn’t need to be this way. People deserve better and Liberal Democrats demand better.”
Kirsten Johnson said: “It is the responsibility of the current Conservative Government to ensure that our businesses are able to thrive, but Ministers in Whitehall are not doing anywhere near enough.”
Liberal Democrat District and Town Councillor, and Mayor of Barnstaple, Ian Roome added: “Liberal Democrats are campaigning to create the environment needed for local businesses to grow and create jobs in North Devon. Our message is clear: every Liberal Democrat elected in May is another voice championing our town centres.”