people walking on street during daytime
Photo by Prakasam Mathaiyan on Unsplash

Along with fellow Labour and Co-operative Councillor Clare McIntyre I have been making the case that Liverpool’s High streets should be the beating heart of our community. They’re the place we do our weekly shop, pick up prescriptions or grab a coffee. They form the backdrop to our social life, the stage for our community action and the centrepiece of our civic pride.

Clare represents Wavertree, which includes Wavertree High Street and adjoins Allerton Road, Penny Lane, and Smithdown Road.  In 2019 Clare was instrumental in getting the Council to close Wavertree High Street to traffic for World Car Free Day to support local independent high street businesses.  I am one of the councillors for Central, which covers the City Centre and surrounding areas.  I’m keen to see new life breathed into London Road and Kensington.

Many high streets in Liverpool are struggling. Even before Covid-19, many high streets faced challenges. The past months of lockdowns, uncertainty, reduced footfall, and new safety requirements, as well as a financial crash that has squeezed consumer spending, has accelerated this trend. In 2020, British high streets lost more than 17,500 chain store outlets – an average of almost 50 a day.

We moved a motion at a Liverpool City Council meeting to call on the City Council and Business Improvement District to get behind the Co-operative Party’s ‘Unlock The High Street’ campaign.  This seeks to empower communities and give them the tools they need to breathe new life into high streets – not a return to the past’s broken models but an opportunity to support people to come together and shape the places they call home.

The Unlock The High Street campaign is a 5-point plan to revitalise our ailing high streets:

1 TRANSPARENCY  – We want to know who owns our high street. Without this, it’s impossible for communities and councils to hold landlords and investors to account or work with them to lead change.

2 COMMUNITY AND CO-OPERATIVE OWNERSHIP – So that the benefits of high street rejuvenation are shared with employees, shoppers, and the community, rather than captured for private profit elsewhere.

3 COMMUNITY POWER – So that local communities and councils can take over and reopen empty shops.

4 TAX REFORM – So that we stop penalising local shops with unfair and disproportionate business rates while online giants get away without paying their fair share.

5 DEVOLVED FUNDING – So that decisions on high street funding transformation from pots like the Levelling Up Fund are made locally by the people who are impacted, not distant bureaucrats in Whitehall or on the basis of political whims.

As Councillor Clare McIntyre said, “Shuttered shops are not a new problem – so the solution cannot be a return to the status quo. To unlock the potential of our high streets we cannot simply tinker around the edges. Instead, we need to be radical, putting communities in the driving seat not to save their high streets but to change them completely for the better.”

There’s lots of potential in our high streets in Liverpool.  We got some fantastic independents.  But there’s so much more we can do locally and nationally to build back our high streets better.  The Co-operative Party’s Unlock the High Street Campaign points us in the right direction.