November 15, 2019

Supporting the heart of our local communities

The Prime Minister today announced an ambitious package, backed by hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, to support towns and communities across Britain.

Building on the Government’s Towns Fund, the measures are designed to help places which have not always benefited from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas.

The package includes measures to:

  • Keep the high street open for business. We will cut business rates for shops, cinemas and pubs. The average corner shop will get a £1,400 cut in their business rates from the extension in the retail discount. Up to half a million businesses will benefit, with the discount extended to all cinemas and music venues.
  • Save pubs and post offices. We will back community groups who want to buy their local pubs and post offices with a £150m fund and a 9 month ban on sale to other bidders.
  • Re-connect towns and villages to the rail network, with a new £500m fund to restore lines and stations removed by the 1960s Beeching Report.
  • Invest in cycling and walking. We will make it easier for people to cycle and walk around their local areas, improving air quality and public health.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, said:

“For too long, too many towns and villages across Britain have been overlooked and left behind. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, many communities felt their voices had been heard for the first time in decades and their lives would improve.  
“We will invest in these communities and help people put the heart back into the places they call home. We need to get Brexit done so that we can unleash the potential of all our towns, cities and villages. We will be able to save our high streets, keep pubs and post offices open and re-connect places to the rail network half a century after they were cut off.
“But that can only happen if we end the dither, delay and paralysis in Westminster. We need to get Brexit done so the country can move on. We need a Conservative majority government which will deliver for communities across Britain – not a Corbyn-Sturgeon alliance which would expend all its energy on two more chaotic referendums.”

What you need to know

Keeping the high street open for business

A Conservative majority Government will extend the retail discount on business rates to 50 per cent next year.

For businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000, this will increase the retail discount from 33 per cent to 50 per cent in 2020/21. This would be an effective £280m tax cut which would help small businesses on the High Street in particular.

We will extend the retail discount to cinemas and music venues.

Hundreds of small music venues and cinemas which currently pay business rates will now qualify for the retail discount, helping to cut their costs and making it easier for them to do business. This will cost approximately £5m.

We will introduce a new £1,000 business rates relief for pubs.

Pubs are at the centre of communities across our country and we are determined to back them by cutting their costs. This new £1,000 rates relief will be an £18 million tax cut for pubs next year and will keep their costs down.

Saving pubs and post offices

A Conservative majority Government will beef up the rights of community groups to acquire assets like pubs and post offices.

We introduced the Localism Act in 2011 to halt the decline in pubs, village shops, sports grounds and other facilities by allowing them to be nominated as ‘assets of community value’. This gave community groups the ability to pause the sale of an asset of community value for six months if it went on the market. The next Conservative Government will go further, making the process simpler for community groups to engage with and increasing the moratorium period to nine months – giving communities more time to prepare a bid and raise funds.

We will provide support to community groups minded to make a bid for an asset.

A Conservative majority Government will introduce a £150 million fund which will help groups with the cost of preparing a bid, whether legal, commercial or planning-related, and co-fund some deserving purchases. The fund will be open to all community groups and we expect councils to facilitate bids.

We will prevent owners from making agreements to sell to anyone other than a community group before the moratorium is up.

As they are permitted to at the moment (though the sale cannot be formally completed until after the moratorium period.) This would be a form of preferred-bidder status for communities, though they could still be outbid at the end of the period if someone else came up with a higher offer.

Re-connecting towns and villages to the rail network

A Conservative majority Government will establish a £500 million Beeching Reversal Fund.

This fund will rejoin many of the towns cut off by Beeching cuts to the network, connecting their residents to employment and education and encouraging commuters to move there.

We will reverse many of the Beeching rail cuts of the 1960s, reconnecting towns that have suffered since their railways were removed.

During the 1960s, Dr Richard Beeching recommended thousands of train stations and thousands of miles of track be closed, leaving many communities feeling disconnected and left behind. The network shrank by 30 per cent during Harold Wilson’s Government.

Places which will be candidates for the new fund include:

  • Ashington, Seaton Delaval and Blyth, with a combined population of 100,000, served by an active freight line. Some 42 per cent of households in Ashington Central do not own a car. Northumberland Council seeks £99 million to reinstate stations and bring these towns within 35 minutes of Newcastle.
  • Skelmersdale, whose population of 38,000 is served only by infrequent buses, despite 35 per cent of households not owning cars. An active rail line runs less than two miles away; extending it to the town would bring it within 30 minutes of Liverpool and 60 minutes of Manchester.
  • Thornton-Cleveleys and Fleetwood, served by a disused freight line and with a combined population of 57,000.
  • Willenhall and Darlaston, with a population of 60,000. £18 million is needed for reopening stations; a further £10 million has already been provided by the Government.

Investing in cycling and walking

A Conservative majority Government will dramatically increase investment in cycling and walking.

Encouraging walking and cycling is key to improving public health and improving air quality in our towns and cities. We will create a new £350 million cycling infrastructure fund and tough new design standards which must be followed to receive any money.

We will invest in new cycling and walking infrastructure, including joining up cycling with the NHS:

  • We will double bikeability training, so all children across the country can get it.
  • We will create a long-term cycling programme and budget like the roads programme and budget, though of course smaller.
  • We will pilot low-traffic ‘healthy neighbourhoods’ – working with local councils to reduce rat-running cars and lorries, making side streetsnicer to live in and safer to walk, cycle and play in while maintaining the access people need.
  • We will increase provision for separated bike lanes on main roads, letting thousands exercise safely as part of their normal daily commute and reducing harms from motorised travel. We will also increase and improve pavements to encourage walking.
  • We will pilot incentivising GPs to prescribe bicycles or bike hire to patients in need.
  • We will raise cycling funding elsewhere in the country and make it conditional on adherence to strict new quality standards, similar to the London Cycling Design Standards introduced under Boris Johnson’s mayoralty. Too much cycling infrastructure is substandard, providing little protection from motorised traffic and giving up at the very places where it is most needed.

The next Conservative majority Government will build on this Government’s action to support local communities

Our £3.6 billion Towns Fund will help improve local transport links and boost broadband connectivity in 100 towns.

The funding will support an initial 100 towns by improving, among other things, their transport and digital infrastructure – driving growth and making them more prosperous. We have provided funding to the local authorities in the shortlisted towns to start preparing bids that best reflect the individual needs and circumstances of their area.

We have backed community leaders with £1 billion of funding to help modernise their high streets and town centres.

The Prime Minister recently expanded the Future High Streets Fund, confirming that another 50 towns in England will be given a share of £1 billion to redevelop their high streets, taking the total receiving support to 100 places.

We have relaxed planning rules to support new homes on our high streets to transform them into community hubs where people work, live and shop.

There are currently over 27,000 premises lying vacant in England’s town centres, by enabling even just a fraction of these vacant premises to be turned into homes, we will help thousands more people have a roof over their heads and help ensure our towns remain vibrant places people want to visit.

Region Labour's Pension Tax (£) Extra Months to Work
England 11,167 44
East Midlands 6,150 50
Greater London 12,871 45
North East 9,758 38
North West 6,835 47
South East 14,270 40
South West 7,407 45
West Midlands 10,729 41
Northern Ireland 13,718 35
Scotland 10,653 41
Wales 11,691 36
United Kingdom 11,253 43

Commenting, Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, said:

“Corbyn’s Pension Tax will see ten million savers facing a huge bill forcing them to delay their retirement for almost three and a half years.
“This is just one of the ways a Corbyn government would hammer hardworking people on top of his plans to hike up taxes by £2,400 a year, as well as the cost of his plan for unlimited immigration and the chaos of 2020 being dominated by two more referendums – one on Brexit and another on Scottish independence.
“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party can get Brexit done with a deal, get parliament working again and turbocharge our economy to unleash Britain’s potential.”

Read more about how this Pension Tax will impact millions of savers (PDF)