The decline of Cornwall’s local independent shops
Cornwall’s local shop owners are in a constant battle competing with out-of-town national stores. They hear those who express sorrow at the decline of Cornwall’s local shops while at the same time clutching their Aldi/Waitrose/Asda/Lidl and Morrison’s shopping bags, or waiting for a free bus that takes them to Tesco’s.
A campaign by Cornwall Food & Drink and Cornwall Chamber of Commerce in 2013 was to persuade people to shop local and Choose Cornish produce, explaining that spending local helps retain the money in Cornwall, but spending in national stores sees the money drift away from Cornwall to CEOs and shareholders.
Business rates are another source of frustration since the steep rise in rates as a result of the 2017 rate revaluation. Although small business’s welcome the recent £2.72 million business rate relief fund, they say this is merely a short-term sticking plaster when long-term rate stability is required; not only to inspire confidence, but to be competitive with the national stores (Cornwall’s many charity shops are entitled to 80% rate relief on any non-domestic property that is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes)
Olivers Photographics a local shop in Penzance, has highlighted the financial hardships faced among Cornwall’s small businesses, losing custom to the national stores and business rates. While understanding the rates are a necessity, they should be tailored more to individual business’s throughout the Duchy, not the current ‘one size fits all’ that is typical of over-centralised Government policies.
There are currently 47 shops in Penzance that remain empty and becoming eyesores making the town less attractive. Prospective buyers, put off by the high Business Rates, could be persuaded by bespoke rates arranged to help their start-up.
At present, Cornwall Council collects Business Rates on behalf of central Government which then redistributes funds to Cornwall in the form of grants and one-off payments. How much Cornwall actually receives from London, in comparison to what Cornwall pays to London, could explain Cornwall’s lowly status as being one of the poorest areas in the UK and wider EU.
A devolved Cornwall could collect and retain Business Rates which are then paid into an Assembly’s non-domestic rates pool. The rates could then be redistributed to our local authorities as part of a Cornish local government revenue settlement each year.
Cornwall is not asking for independence. But it requires a devolution process of decentralisation; to drawdown powers from an over-centralised Westminster to the towns and people of Cornwall. To ensure local factors are better recognised in the decision-making eg; having control in areas such as Planning; Affordable Homes for local people; Recognition for Cornwall; A strategy for a Cornish sustainable economy.
Will Cornwall remain the cap-doffing subservient to the centralist parties of the Conservatives and Labour? (The Liberal Democrats were full of promise but failed to deliver – even in a coalition Government)
The current feeling suggests Cornwall will remain cap-doffers.