people walking on street during daytime
Photo by Kai Bossom on Unsplash

Heanor’s High Streets are struggling. Government cash, from the High Street Fund, is welcome but slow in coming and our fear is that it won’t address the longer-term challenges that retailers face. That’s why when the Co-op Party highlighted that Government was consulting on an Online Sales Tax as a way of levelling the playing field between Internet-only businesses and those retailers that need a shop front presence, our branch was keen to help.

In addition to the branch writing to our local Conservative MP I, as a member of both Heanor and Loscoe Town Council and Codnor Parish Council, took the issue of an Online Sales Tax up with my fellow councillors. The two local councils also added their weight to the issue and have written to our MP.

An Online Sales Tax is an imperfect solution. It would be better to reform the business rates system. Introduced in 1990 as part of the ill-fated reform of the General Rate Act 1967, business rates were brought in at the same time as the poll tax. The growth of Internet-sales means that it is increasingly clear that the business rates system is not fit for purpose. In the absence of reform (which the Conservatives have promised repeatedly) the proceeds of a modest Online Sales Tax could be used to reduce the burden of business rates for all.

Without being too partisan, I am not too optimistic about receiving a reply from our MP. However, the point is that our branch is using the tools we have available in an attempt to influence policy locally as well as nationally. It’s not an easy task when the Borough and County Councils are Conservative-run and when our MP is a Conservative – but opposition is about maintaining visibility and continuing to chip away.