Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk has defended shop vacancy figures published by the Local Data Company, after the Association of Town Centre Managers criticised them as being “fatally flawed”.

Danczuk said it was “an astonishing attack” and that ACTM’s call for future releases on empty shops to be verified by local authorities before being issued “smacked of desperation”.

The Local Data Company released figures on Monday which recorded a shop vacancy rate of 14.6% for the first half of the year.

Data showed the proportion of shops lying empty increased in every region in Britain apart from London between January and June.

ATCM is providing the support package for up to 392 Town Teams that failed to be chosen as Portas Pilots. They will have the opportunity to share a slice of a £5.5m fund.

Danczuk said: “It’s unhealthy when an organisation like ATCM, which is being paid to deliver a package of Government support, tries to silence informed debate about empty shops to suit its own ends.

“It’s starting to look like they are more interested in doing the Government’s bidding than getting to grips with the problem of empty shops.”

Danczuk said ATCM is “splitting hairs” by “quibbling” about town centre boundaries and instead energy should be focused on filling empty shops.