Charity Begins at Home

So, it is a matter of days after I post a long post defending Walsall council, and having remained uncharacteristically quiet for a long time, Councillor Mike Bird has returned to form and made some… odd comments about charity shops. From the article (referring to the discretion a local council has over 20% of business rates):

Cllr Bird has suggested removing any discretionary exemption from charity shops, potentially forcing landlords to develop the sites into something more profitable.

also:

The charity shops obviously are endemic because once they’re in there then the owner doesn’t have to pay any rates. So therefore there’s no incentive for that individual to develop that site of that shop into something meaningful.

Now, as I said recently, shops are a commercial enterpise, a product of the capitalist system, and on that basis, the market decides what works. The charity shops obviously benefit from low, or none-existent business rates, and are staffed by volunteers at times, so they don’t need to turn over a lot to be viable- their costs are lower.

Does Cllr Bird really think there will be queues of people looking to invest their money in a retail shop in a town centre that is already visibly struggling (and has many empty units already)?

That’s before considering all the factors pointed out by the Charity Retail Association.

I really think that as a responsible authority, and indeed as a landlord of a large shopping centre, they really need to welcome any business they can; we might want nicer, more profitable, classier shops, but this is Walsall, and an occupied shop is better than an empty one, and charity shops have other benefits.

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