Politicians of every colour joined together on Saturday to support York’s ‘heroes of the High Street’.
They appeared together at the Love Yor-k High Street roadshow in King’s Square, part of the campaign to back the struggling retail sector.
Organiser Stephanie Green, store manager of Crabtree & Evelyn, told the gathering that more needs to be done to ensure shopkeepers can thrive in York.
“You would have to have been sitting under a rock somewhere if you haven’t noticed the high streets are having a hard time,” she said, adding:
We want to do two things. One: remind everybody how amazing shopping can be – what a beautiful city York is, some fantastic shops here.
Sometimes we have to fall back in love with the experience of shopping with our feet rather than just online.
And also we want to ask the government for some support. We would like to ask to reform their business rates review.
Reform business rates
People were urged to sign a petition calling on the government to reform business rates, which are crippling many shops.
York Central’s Labour MP Rachael Maskell said: “Come and sign the petition so we can change this business rates system.
“This Conservative government promised a review 18 months ago and have done nothing. So we need to get them moving on this issue so at the Budget in November they announce reform of business rates.”
Cllr Ian Gillies, Conservative leader of City of York Council said: “It’s the government of the day who set business rates, and this is directed at them.
“We are the second most successful city in the country as far as vacancy rates goes, behind Cambridge.
“It’s a fantastic city. It needs to be better.”
‘Support us – or we won’t be here’
Live in King's Square with Minster FM supporting York's high streets
Posted by YorkMix on Saturday, September 22, 2018
Deputy council leader, Liberal Democrat Andrew Waller said:
It is important that not only we get the government to change its mind but that people support their local shops actively by shopping there.
The retailers are the heroes of the High Street and we’ve got to support them.
Johnny Hayes, who founded Indie York, made the point that 60% of shops in York are independents. “Independents are the lifeblood of a city, particularly a city like York,” he said.
“It’s really important to support local business, keep the money in the local economy – that’s the most important thing about supporting the city centre,” said Andy D’Agorne, leader of the York Green Party.
And Phil Pinder, owner of two city shops and chair of the York Retail Forum, had a simple message: “If you don’t support our local businesses they’re not going to be here.”
The event was put on with support from the York BID (Business Improvement District). Executive director Andrew Lowson said business rates “need to be affordable, they need to be sustainable”, adding:
This is about awareness today. It’s great that we’ve got a variety of people here because we’re only going to do this if we work together and look at the bigger picture.
It’s getting that message out, ‘Shop Local’. We have a great offer in York, but we need to protect it. Don’t take it for granted.
Many shops and other businesses had given big discounts and special offers to make the first Love Yor-k High Street a day to remember.