Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 26th September 2018
The Labour Party’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has revealed a series of proposals designed to breathe fresh life into high streets across the UK.
The plans include offering free Wi-Fi internet connections in town centres and introducing a ban on charges at ATM cash machines.
Bank branch and Post Office closures would also stopped if Labour were to form the next government, Ms Long-Bailey told an audience at her party’s annual conference in Liverpool.
Other aspects of the plan would include offering people aged under 25 free bus travel and the creation of a registry of empty shops in each local authority area around the country.
“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,” said Ms Long-Bailey.
“It can mean a vibrant community space, with local in dependent shops, cafes and restaurants. But that will require governmental action to reinvigorate our high streets.”
The Labour Party’s business spokesperson pointed out in her conference speech that an estimated 100,000 jobs have been lost within the UK’s retail sector over the course of the past three years.
She also said that there are currently in the region of 25,000 vacant retail and leisure spaces across the country, and promised to make changes to the current business rates system, which has been a cause of financial concern for retailers nationwide in recent years.
“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 said.
The shadow minister also suggested that a Labour government would attempt to address some of the issues around what Ms Long-Bailey described as being an “imbalance of tax treatment between traditional retailers and online sellers”.
Elsewhere at the Labour conference, shadow Brexit minister Sir Kier Starmer confirmed that the party intends to vote and argue against prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal if she is able to present one to parliament in the coming weeks.