However long the current lockdown lasts, it is clear that life is never going to return to exactly what it was, and that there is going to be a 'new normal', writes John Turner.
Thanks to advances in technology, working from home is now much easier and more cost effective for businesses, and many larger corporations are already reported to be looking at whether or not they will need to retain their large, expensive offices in city centres in the future.
The rapid growth in online sales over the last 12 months has accelerated the downfall of many larger high street “names”, which is going to leave gaping holes in many of our major town and city centres, together with the tragic loss of thousands of retail jobs.
On the other hand, there has been a definite and welcome resurgence in the desire of the public to shop in their local areas, and support their local independent town centre businesses, and we have seen clear evidence of this in Byres Road and the Lanes.
In the light of this, a group of leading academics, town planners and other luminaries have been studying the situation, supported by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the organisation which among other things supports Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in towns and cities throughout Scotland.
They recently submitted their report on the future of town and city centres to the Scottish Government, and among their various recommendations are the following:
- A thorough review of the Non Domestic ( or business) Rates system. This will be welcomed by businesses both large and small, as the current system has many things wrong with it, and business groups, including the local Byres Road & Lanes BID, have been lobbying for a fairer system for a long time. In many places, businesses pay more for NDR each year than they do for rent, which is one reason why many larger properties on the high street sit empty for a long time. Businesses also feel let down and unrepresented, as they have no vote and no say in the running of the Council to whom they pay their hard-earned money.
- A “digital sales tax” (otherwise referred to in the popular press as the “Amazon tax”) to ensure that there is a “level playing field” so that the mega-giant online companies are sharing an appropriate part of the overall tax burden.