Ellesmere Port & Neston MP, Justin Madders has backed a new plan to save the country’s high streets, announced at this week’s Labour party conference.

Since being elected, Justin has consistently called for action to action to improve struggling high streets, as well as campaigning against the closure of bank branches and Post Offices.

Over three years there have been 100,000 job losses in retail, with almost 25,000 vacant retail and leisure premises across the country.  Many of the vacancies are long-term, for example 52% of former BHS stores still lie empty 2 years after the final closure.

Last April, Business Rates were re-evaluated resulting in the average small shop being hit by an extra £3,663 in rates over the next 5 years. In comparison, large supermarket chains saw a 5.9% reduction in their rateable value, while online retailer ASOS bill fell from £1.17million to £1.14million despite UK sales growth.  Amazon paid only £38 million in business rates in 2018 despite a turnover of £9 billion.

During her speech at the Conference, Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP paid tribute to Justin for “forensically holding the Government to account” as part of the shadow Business team and unveiled an emergency five point plan to save Britain’s high streets.

The five point plan is to:

  1. Ban ATM charges, and stop bank branch and Post Office closures.
  2. Improve local bus services and provide free bus travel for under 25s.
  3. Deliver free public Wi-Fi in town centres.
  4. Establish a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority.
  5. Introduce annual revaluations of business rates, ensure a fair appeals system and review the business rates system to bring it into the 21st century.

The next Labour government will launch a review of the entire business rates system, consulting widely with businesses about how to design a system of business taxation suitable for the 21st Century and looking at radical alternatives, such as a land value tax on non-residential property and an online sales tax.

Commenting, Justin Madders MP said:

“I have long argued that we cannot continue to stand-by and watch our town centres and high streets decline without taking action.  I am delighted that we now have a robust and deliverable plan to rebuild the centre of our communities.

“The shift to online shopping has had a huge impact on our local shopping areas and the outdated Business Rates system represents a double unfairness.  Many smaller retailers have been hit by increases in Rates, while huge online retailers have benefited from significantly lower relative tax rates.  Introducing some much-needed transparency over ownership will also be a welcome first step towards bring empty units back into use. 

“It is disgraceful that a decade after the banking sector was bailed out by the taxpayer, we are seeing branches closing across our communities.  2,868 high street branches either closed or scheduled to close between 2015 and the end of 2018, including in Ellesmere Port & Neston.  Under our plans, no closure could take place without consultation and approval by the Financial Conduct Authority.

“I am also pleased to see the proposed investment in bus services after eight years of route closures and reduced timetables.  While a huge amount of attention and money is focused on rail services in the south, it remains the case that buses are the most widely used form of public transport.  People won’t use our local shops or access the employment opportunities available if they can’t access decent transport, so this is another big step in the right direction.”

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