Wakefield city centre: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls for fairer business rates system to help struggling high street
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has called for a fairer business rates system to help save Wakefield's struggling high street.
Sir Keir said town and city centre shops were being punished by the current rules, which see them charged more than businesses being run remotely.
Business rates are collected by councils, but are set by the government nationally.
The collapse of several retailers has seen declining footfall in Wakefield city centre over recent years.
The city got £20m worth of Levelling Up funding from the government last month, more than half of which will be spent on renovating the old BHS building on Kirkgate.
But Sir Keir said more needed to be done to help retailers facing an existential crisis.
In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) on Monday, he said: "Our town and city centres are really important.
"They are places of work and retail, but they're also places of pride.
"I've been to Wakefield many times, both when I was living in Leeds and subsequently.
"At our party conference we outlined our proposal to freeze business rates as an interim measure, then abolish them altogether and then replace them with a different, better tax."
In the recent Budget, the government did make some alterations to rates, including capping increases for small businesses who've lost business rates relief, due to the value of their property going up.
Tax cuts were also announced for some retail, leisure and hospitality businesses.
But Sir Keir said an overhaul of the system was desperately needed.
He added: "This is something that's raised with me almost everywhere, including in Wakefield, time and time again.
"Businesses, particularly those in retail, say, "You've got to do something about this.""
"They just want to be given a chance to operate on a level playing field with businesses who are operating remotely."
Local Democracy Reporting Service