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Town Centres (Regeneration)

Volume 555: debated on Monday 17 December 2012

The Government are determined to help our high streets both adapt and compete. That is why we have established over 300 town team partners, provided £10 million to get empty shops back into use and have now extended the business rate relief for small shops, helping half a million enterprises.

The Make it Macclesfield forum is taking forward important regeneration initiatives and, nearby in Poynton, our active town council has introduced a shared spaces scheme. We are fortunate to have such strong local leadership, as well as the invaluable contribution from many small businesses. Will my hon. Friend tell us what steps he is taking to help more small businesses start up on our high streets?

We want to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start up, and that is why today we have opened a new shop in the Department in Victoria street for six businesses to trade, rotating every fortnight. Working with PopUp Britain, we want this shop to be an exemplar for others right across the country. I would say to local government leaders and to landlords, “Let’s take this examplar and roll it out across the country”. I am happy to invite my hon. Friend to see it for himself—and, indeed, the Opposition Front-Bench team, as I hope they will be able to apply this principle and follow our lead across the country.

Wirral council has done a huge amount of work to regenerate Bromborough village and New Ferry town centre in my constituency. It wants to continue doing this into the future, but its ability to do so is severely constrained by cuts. It is the season of good will, so may I ask the Minister to set a new year’s resolution and treat Wirral council better next year than he has this year?

It is a little early for new year’s resolutions, but I am always happy to take a collaborative approach to this issue. It is about funding, but it is also about ensuring that there is innovation on the ground, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) said, it is about strong local leadership, too. I hope that that is what we will see in the Wirral.

I hope there is plenty of passing trade for the pop-up shop at the Minister’s Department. I am pleased to report that there has been plenty of passing trade for the pop-up shop in Chippenham’s Emery Gate centre—it is a worthwhile initiative and I am glad that the Minister supports it. Does he agree that key is the importance of support from the landlords in these shopping centres to ensure that they play their part in helping to have a vibrant town centre from which they ultimately will benefit?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why I have written today to the British Property Federation to make sure that they understand we mean business on this, and we want make sure that it is able to follow our lead. I look forward to a positive response.

Will the Minister tell us what, if any, business rates the pop-up shop tenants are paying on that property and why it is that the postponed revaluation, which has helped to keep business rates artificially low in places such as Victoria street in London has been used to subsidise artificially high business rates in places such as Rochdale?

The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. With the small business rate relief, the smallest businesses have been removed from paying it, as the Chancellor announced only last week. On the revaluation, what is clear from the Valuation Office is that while it is true that possibly 300,000 businesses might benefit, it is also true that potentially 800,000 people would lose out. That is the problem.