Labour calls for action to save ‘dying’ high streets

The Labour Party has called on the Government to save Britain’s ‘dying’ high streets as new figures released by the party reveal 100,000 retail jobs have been lost in 3 years.

New analysis by Labour of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that 100,000 retail jobs have been lost in stores across Britain since 2015, as real wages have stagnated and Brexit negotiations continue to hit consumer and business confidence.

Labour’s shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey has called on ministers to create a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority area, to make it easier to bring vacant shops back into use.

Ms Long-Bailey has also called for an inquiry to be launched into the impact excessive car park charges are having on Britain’s high streets and how free parking could benefit city centres.

2018 has seen numerous major high street brands fall into administration or announce store closures, including House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer, Mothercare and New Look.

Research by the British Retail Consortium has revealed nearly a fifth of British retailers are planning to cut the number of people they employ in the next three months.

A report by PwC and the Local Data Company found that last year 4,000 High Street shops opened and 5,800 closed, a net loss of 1,800.

Currently 11.35% of shops are empty, and the Local Data Company has found that 52% of former BHS stores still lie empty 2 years after the final closure.

Research by XLN last year found nine in ten people would visit high streets more often if free parking was offered. A third of respondents picked expensive parking and the lack of free parking as their biggest high street frustrations.

The British Retail Consortium has reported that 94% of people surveyed say they miss the community feel of their high street.

‘Our high streets are dying but the Government isn’t doing anything about it,’ said Ms Long-Bailey.

‘Losing giants like House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer and New Look from town centres across the country is alarming.

‘Our communities, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and our economy, both local and national, depend on thriving high streets. The Tories need to take action fast, before we become a nation of ghost towns.’

In July,  an independent review called for the creation of a town centre commission in each local authority area to develop a 20-year strategy to protect their local high streets.

The review, which was led by the former chief executive of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, Bill Grimsey, also recommended that high streets be re-fashioned as community hubs with housing, health and leisure.

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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