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Independent businesses in Soho at ‘breaking point’

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer meets traders at the Soho meeting

22 September, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Robin Smith (centre) picking up a small business award last year 

A SOHO business owner said independent shops in the area were at “breaking point” six months after sharp rises in business rates.

Robin Smith, owner of Soho Dairy, said a radical rethink was needed from government to pro- tect the area’s character, after many businesses were hit by increases of 40 per cent.

Mr Smith, who also runs SOHOST, a space dedicated to growing new businesses, called a meeting there with 30 other business owners.

As Mr Smith’s MP, Sir Keir Starmer the shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union, joined the panel.

Mr Smith, who has been working in Soho for more than 30 years, said: “It is important to understand that when a small business goes under, the community not only loses an asset but it also loses a little piece of its identity. If you want to really appreciate how Soho is changing now, just think about all of the small businesses that have gone and then replicate that across London – it’s happening right here right now under your nose. It has to stop or we’ll have no differentiated communities left to visit or live in.”

Sue Terpilowski, London policy chair for the Federation of Small Businesses said London’s small businesses were facing a “crisis beyond comprehension”.

The FSB is campaigning to bring the issue to the fore and is launching a new report, along with the Mayor of London, at Royal Festival Hall at the end of the month.

The meeting discussed ideas including abolishing business rates below £500k turnover and chang- ing to a local revenue tax.

Mr Smith added: “The rates regime isn’t working and it is tak- ing small businesses down. This is a crisis and something needs to be done. Keir Starmer’s attendance at our FSB meeting shows that MPs are willing to stand up for small businesses and Keir Starmer has offered to put proposals to an all- party committee as a next step.”

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