Over 3,000 people have thrown their support behind a campaign to end the blight of crippling business rates.
More than 2,800 have signed online and more than 300 have posted petitions calling for a complete overhaul of the system.
The Star and parent company Johnston Press have launched a campaign calling for urgent reform. We also demand rates are frozen while a review is conducted.
Independent traders, MPs, business bodies and pressure groups say business rates are killing the high street and blocking start-ups who could occupy the hundreds of empty shops across the region.
Local authorities are concerned that independent retailers and small firms who do most of their trade on the high street, rather than online, are penalised.
The Local Government Association says they should be set by councils who should have the power to reduce them.
And any growth in income should be retained and redistributed locally.
The Chancellor is being urged to deliver a boost for small businesses in next month’s Autumn Statement by handing control to local government.
Coun David Sparks, of the LGA, said: “We need a system which is fit for the 21st century, which supports companies rather than hinders them.”
“Councils can’t support businesses as they would like to.”