If you spend some time in a town centre in the UK at the moment, you will see several things happening. The number of homeless people are rising, certainly in their visibility. The number of empty shops are still at far too high levels for retail to be seen as in a recovery – there are still some major problems arising from the financial crash as far back as 2008 that haven’t’ been resolved. So, it begs the question - What are we doing to our town centres ?
What are the economic conditions that have brought this about?
What are we doing to our town centres ? has been a conundrum that many politicians have looked at over the last 20 years or more. The problem was exacerbated in the financial crash because of the actions of the politicians. They reduced interest rates to such a low level that even poor retailers were able to stay afloat. One of the positives of a market crash is that underperforming businesses go under. It feels horrific at the time for all involved, but for the economy as a whole, losing these businesses leaves more room for quality business to emerge. We have stifled this growth in some ways.
Higher inflation is a problem when interest rates and wage growth are so low. We are seeing inflation rise, with the promise of the Bank of England base rate to rise either at the start of November or December 2018, if the economists are to be believed. So, people will feel the pinch. They will have less money in their pocket, and retailers will suffer. A single rate rise of 0.25% to 0.5% won’t be the end of the world as we know it, but will start to hit retailers. This is all with Brexit around the corner.
What are we doing to our town centres ? well, the decisions made at the top have a very real impact at the bottom. Look at city centres and you would be forgiven for thinking that times were good. But go to a local town centre and you usually see a very different story altogether.
What are we doing to our town centres ?
What are we doing to our town centres ? is a bad enough question to ask at any rate, but some of the solutions being sued make it feel even worse. Councils are giving homeless people one-way tickets out of town – often just to pass the problem onto another council. This is a shocking way to deal with the issue we face as a society.
Why not put these two issues together and provide access to empty shop units for homeless charities to sell their wares and have homeless people to work in them? Surely that’s a better way of improving the life of these people than passing them on to another part of the country. The solutions are there, but it’s up to politicians to make them work. Let’s try to make aa difference in the lives of people.