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Business Improvement Districts across the south join #BusinessSOS campaign

14 September 2022
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Reading, UK. 5th February 2017. People are walking through the pedestrianized streets of Reading in Berkshire on a Sunday afternoon.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) across the South have joined forces with more than 150,000 UK businesses to warn of the imminent collapse of the high street.

These entities have come together under the banner of the #BusinessSOS campaign to warn the new Prime Minister that spiralling energy costs may lead to mass closures without immediate intervention.

The campaign has developed a three-point plan to support flagging high street businesses:

  • Reduce VAT – including dropping the headline rate to 12.5 per cent (from 20) and business energy bills to 5 per cent.
  • Business rates relief – 100 per cent rate relief until 31 March 2023.
  • Energy rates relief – Discounted rate on all business energy bills.

The region’s BIDs which have signed up to the campaign include Canterbury in Kent, Bracknell in Berkshire and Wimborne in Dorset.

Fiona Harwood, Chair of Wimborne BID, said: “Our businesses have been through so much in the last few years, and there’s nowhere left for them to turn.

“Without immediate government support we will see many viable businesses closing their doors. This is why Wimborne BID is supporting the Business SOS campaign on behalf of our businesses.”

Read more - Toy shop The Entertainer to trial in-store concessions at Tesco stores

Bracknell’s BID is also supporting the campaign. Its manager, Sean Griffin, said: “Our Bracknell BID businesses are very concerned about the cost-of-living crisis and the impact it will have, with many starting to see the effects already. This is why we’re passionate about backing the Business SOS Campaign.

“Like the many thousands of supporters in the drive, we’re calling for the Government to provide significant support to help businesses to survive the challenges ahead.

“Businesses in the Southern and Western Business Areas in Bracknell have shown great resilience over the last few years, and there is lots of positives with local investment and improvements in Bracknell, but we strongly believe further action needs to be taken from a national level. We’re urging everyone to get involved.”

Similarly, Lisa Carlson, Chief Executive of Canterbury BID, said: “Businesses in Canterbury have shown incredible resilience over the past two years, but cannot withstand the spiralling costs of the energy crisis and require urgent support. In Canterbury we are hearing of businesses facing 500-600% prince increases in energy costs.

“These are businesses we love and cherish in our communities and who are essential to the way our city functions and its character. This is also about people’s livelihoods. We need immediate action and intervention from the Government.“

Some support is forthcoming from the Government. On 8 September, Liz Truss told the House of Commons that an energy price freeze for businesses will happen, albeit only for six months for most companies. Vulnerable industries, such as pubs and hospitality, could receive further support at the end of this period.

One of the brains behind BusinessSOS and chief executive of Croydon BID, Matthew Sims, said: "To say the energy crisis is worse than the pandemic is not an understatement, it is the reality facing businesses today and why the clock is ticking for the new Government to provide clarity and introduce measures providing tangible and immediate relief."

At this stage, no full list of entities involved in the campaign has been released, however BIDs which have announced their support, aside from the ones previously mentioned, include Brighton and Hove, Southampton and Salisbury.

The campaign comes following research from BDO which states that retailers in the UK have recorded their slowest sales growth since lockdowns ended.

Read more - UK Retailers record slowest sales growth since lockdowns ended – BDO


Sam is the Regional Editor of Biz News, responsible for both Hampshire and Dorset.

A new recruit to journalism, Sam started writing for the Business Magazine as a freelancer in May of 2022 after completing his degree in English at University College London. His passion for local businesses and ability to tell a story soon caught the attention of the publication’s management team and have led to his meteoric rise.

Sam, who lives in central Reading, takes a particular interest in technology, gaming and food and drink, having been a chef before starting his degree.

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