The theme that the Conservatives sought to weave through last week’s conference was opportunity.

Matthew Ogg Revo

Amid the chaos of Brexit, the Labour Party stole a march on the high streets agenda in Liverpool the previous week. Whilst several policies on business in general may raise the alarm for investors, for retail, hospitality and leisure there was welcome recognition of the challenges we face within our sector on the main stage daring the Conservatives to respond.

That the Conservatives felt the need to reiterate that they are the party of business suggests that they are concerned. Courting business has become a clear strategy.

Chancellor Philip Hammond went out to bat for the market economy, for a 21st century capitalism, deftly flirting with, but not losing himself down the Brexit rabbit hole. He teased at an online tax once more.

The government is still holding out for an international solution to deal with the phenomena of the tech giants and rise of online business more broadly. What was new, perhaps, was the admission that if an international agreement is unattainable, the government may finally go it alone. What was lacking was a clear timeframe for when they might act.

Greg Clark, the business secretary, also commented on the economic and social value of our sector to communities across the whole of the UK. To protect the fabric and vibrancy of our urban centres requires a fairer distribution of business taxation and there is no doubt that the retail sector is going through significant structural changes. It is imperative that this evolution is reflected in policy.

Kensington high st

“There is no doubt the retail sector is going through significant structural changes - it is imperative that this evolution is reflected in policy”

Revo has been clear that any new funds raised must help to rebalance wider taxation and ultimately reduce the burden of business rates on owners and occupiers. This would be a welcome boost to our high streets, town centres, and physical retail - wherever it may be - continue to thrive. We need action on CVAs, greater investment in small scale infrastructure interventions, and in supporting local government who play a key role as enablers and service providers.

Whether there will truly be any cut through as the Chequers Deal and Boris Johnson steal the front pages remains to be seen. However, behind the scenes local government finance, high streets and rates have not gone unmentioned on a lively fringe.

The roll call of MPs pledging support at the Great British High Street Awards exhibition stand to the high street and issues surrounding our future is especially encouraging. There are signs, but talk is cheap as they say.

If the Conservatives want to be the party of business, the opportunity is ready for the taking. They would do well by fronting up to the challenge of business rates, delivering on the manifesto promise made at the last election.

With Budget 2018 just around the corner, we wait with anticipation. What we need now is less talk and more action.

Matthew Ogg, policy advisor, Revo