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New West End Company unveils manifesto “for growth” ahead of general election

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Oxford Circus Credits: New West End Company

The New West End Company (NWEC), which represents more than 600 UK and international firms in London's West End, has unveiled a new manifesto laying out policy priorities and recommendations for the future government ahead of the upcoming general election in the UK.

The manifesto has been built on insights from its hundreds of members to outline the Governmental support businesses need for growth and calls on the UK’s political parties to prioritise three key areas: economic growth, public safety, and planning.

NWEC states that its recommendations to reform business rates, reintroduce tax-free shopping, crack down on shoplifting, and offer greater protection for retail workers will help “drive growth and investment in the nation’s high streets”.

Dee Corsi, chief executive of the New West End Company, said in a statement: “As the election nears, ‘growth’ has become a buzzword for both Labour and the Conservatives. But if our nation’s politicians are serious about delivering for the business sector, we need to take a long-term approach that tackles unwieldy business rates, encourages innovation by reforming the rigid planning system, and keeps streets safe by remodelling police funding.

“Our manifesto, informed by the more than 600 UK and international businesses that the New West End Company represents, offers any future government a roadmap to do just that. In a little under four weeks the public will have decided on who they want to lead the country. When the nation has had its say, I hope that the government will look to the recommendations of the nation's businesses so that they can deliver on the promise of growth.”

New West End Company calls on ministers to prioritise economic growth, public safety and planning

NWEC states that economic growth should be high on the agenda for the upcoming general election and is calling for a comprehensive reform to business rates to boost high streets across the country. It is looking for a “fairer system,” one that does not simply shift the bill to online businesses but reflects the reality of today’s multi-channel sales model.

In addition, it is looking for the reintroduction of tax-free shopping as it reveals that tourist spending has fallen across the country while it is soaring in nations such as France and Italy, which is forcing British businesses to trade at a disadvantage.

The business group is also looking for ministers to address chronic skills shortages in key sectors, such as retail, which it states impacts business performance and customer experience. The budget for adult skills must be increased to allow for higher-skilled and better-paid jobs.

When it comes to public safety, NWEC’s manifesto calls on party leaders to tackle organised crime and anti-social behaviour, introduce more visible policing to tackle retail crime, as well as review the funding model for devolved policing.

The final area of focus is on planning, where the NWEC is looking for reforms on the planning system to make it more flexible. It states that the current planning system is “excessively rigid, creating unnecessary barriers to development and inward investment”. It is looking for the implementation of a reformed system, flexible enough to deal with the nuances of modern development projects and which situates a retrofit-first approach to sustainable development within the broader context of economic and social sustainability.

In addition, it would like improved access for high streets and a greater emphasis must be placed on ensuring crucial hospitality and retail areas are accessible for all, with continued investment into essential transport infrastructure.

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