We are supporting our high streets to thrive as consumer habits change. We have introduced the biggest ever cut in business rates, worth £6.6 billion, and launched the high street pledge and digital high street pilot in Gloucestershire. We are also celebrating our high streets through the hugely successful Great British High Street awards, which Members on both sides of the House supported.
Although Lincoln’s Sincil Street—a much treasured traditional shopping area just off our High Street—is full of first-class independent shops, they are all losing customers by the day due to large-scale regeneration works. I, and many others, believe that the valuation office should reduce business rates for the shops directly affected during this period, and that their landlord, the Lincolnshire Co-op, should discount their rent, especially as it has caused the shortfall. What does my right hon. Friend—sorry, my hon. Friend—think the valuation office should do?
I am sure it is just a matter of time.
Businesses are fully entitled to make a case for a temporary reduction in their rateable value. As a fellow Lincolnshire MP, I know Sincil Street very well. I advise my hon. Friend’s businesses to contact the local valuation office to discuss whether the rateable values can be amended at all.
As the Minister is well aware, there has been a significant increase in begging on Scunthorpe High Street over the past three years. The police, the local authorities and the courts between them do not seem to be able to roll up their sleeves and sort out the problem, despite trying hard in many different ways. What are the Government going to do to ensure that the right powers are in the right place to tackle the issue?
May I begin by congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his marathon success yesterday? For such a young man, he did it in such an interesting time; he deserves full credit for it. He raises an issue that I am fully aware of in Scunthorpe, which is a town centre that is on its way back. I am happy to discuss with him further what we can do across Government to help to deal with the problem.
Traders in Cleethorpes High Street and elsewhere in the resort are concerned following a decision by North East Lincolnshire council, which is Labour controlled, to close a number of public toilets and refuse to repair others. That is having a very detrimental effect. I know that my hon. Friend, as the coastal communities Minister, would want to look favourably on future funding requests so that these amenities can be improved.
It is a delight to get a question from my other neighbour. Across northern Lincolnshire more generally, we have seen the council in north Lincolnshire actually open new public toilets. We recently allocated £20 million to northern powerhouse projects through the coastal communities fund. There will be a further round of bidding in October. If the local coastal community team wants to come forward with a proposal that includes that, we will, of course, look at it.