The UK’s Labour party has unveiled a five-point plan to save British high streets.
The measures were outlined by the shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, during Labour’s annual conference.
Long-Bailey said: “Boarded up shops and deserted high streets are a result of years of neglect and austerity.
“Our high streets need saving from a slow and agonising death.
“As part of our plan to rebuild Britain and breathe life back into our communities, Labour will scrap ATM charges, deliver free Wi-Fi to town centres, introduce a register of empty properties, provide free bus travel for under 25s and overhaul the broken business rates system which is hammering retail.”
According to Long-Bailey, retailers moving into online markets and ‘the changing nature of the way we shop’ should not leave the high streets empty. However, governmental action is needed to ‘reinvigorate our high streets’.
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The Labour’s five-point plan includes banning ATM charges and halting post office and bank branch closures, as well as establishing a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority.
The high street has experienced a tough year this year with several retailers announcing store closures, job losses and restructuring programmes.
Retailers like Toys R Us, Maplin and House of Fraser have gone into administration, while New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare have closed multiple stores.
Labour’s analysis has found that in the last three years alone 100,000 jobs in the retail sector have been lost. While British Retail Consortium research also shows that a fifth of British retailers are planning to cut the number of people they employ in the next three months.
The closures of ATMs have also been a big issue in the retail sector. According to Labour, 2.7 million people rely entirely on cash, 500,000 more than two years ago.
Research from Which? had shown that the loss of free-to-use ATMs would leave one in 10 people struggling to make payments, forcing consumers out from local shops and services.
Scottish Labour MP Ged Killen said: “In Scotland, a free-to-use ATM is closing at a rate of one a day.
“This means every day there is one less place to take out money for the school lunches or one less place to withdraw money to pay in local shops.
“No one should have to pay to access their own money. If any government is serious about economic development in our towns and high streets, they need to protect the financial infrastructure people and business rely on.”
Labour’s other measures include improving local bus services and providing bus travel for under-25s, as well as free Wi-Fi in town centres.
Lastly, the party wants plans to introduce annual revaluations of business rates, ensure a fair appeals system and review the business rates system.