The Labour Party has unveiled proposals to reinvigorate high streets which have suffered as result of high business costs and the rise of online retail.
Speaking at the party’s conference in Liverpool, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey revealed an “emergency five-point plan” to address the issue.
She said a Labour government would ban ATM charges and stop Post Office and bank branch closures, provide free bus travel for the under-25s, ensure the provision of free public Wi-Fi in town centres and establish a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority area.
She also promised action on business rates.
Long Bailey said: “On one of the most pressing issues, business rates, we will introduce annual revaluations of rates, exempt new plant and machinery from revaluations, ensure a fair appeals system and fundamentally review the business rates system to bring it into the 21st century.”
She added: “Thriving high streets were once the centre of communities, somewhere local people were proud of, but once flourishing businesses are now replaced by boarded-up shops, with almost 25,000 vacant retail and leisure premises across Great Britain.
“The move to online retail and the changing nature of the way we shop doesn’t need to mean empty high streets and job losses. It can mean a vibrant community space, with local independent shops, cafés and restaurants. But that will require Governmental action.”
Trade body the BRC’s director of business and regulation Tom Ironside said: “The retail industry is going through a period of unprecedented change. Taking action to fix a broken and outdated business rates system is essential if the country’s largest private sector employer is to work towards a positive future.”