The Labour Party has today launched its new five point plan to revive the UK’s high streets. Labour’s plans for the high street will help end the decline of our town centres, which are all too often blighted by empty shops and properties. We are delighted Labour has taken up ideas from our High Streets Commission submission, which made the case for community-led regeneration of our high streets which supports bricks and mortar businesses.

The Co-operative Party has long campaigned for community-led high street revival and have been working with councils across the UK through our Unlock the High Street campaign over the last few years. The campaign has led to councils throughout the UK including Newcastle City Council, Liverpool City Council and Lambeth Council passing our #UnlockTheHighStreet motion, calling for reform of business rates, the promotion of community ownership, greater transparency of high street property ownership, and the implementation of Community Improvement Districts (CIDs). We are pleased Labour are taking forward several of these ideas to help deliver renewed high streets which can once again become the centres of our communities.

Labour’s five point plan will:

  1. Cut business rates for SMEs paid for by an online sales tax
  2. Provide councils with powers to take over empty shops and put them back into productive use.
  3. Introduce a £700m voucher scheme enabling SMEs to retrofit their properties and boost energy efficiency.
  4. Recruit 13,000 more police and PCSOs – introducing town centre patrols.
  5. Tackle late payments to small businesses.

We strongly support Labour’s action to cut business rates, which have severely disadvantaged high street businesses in all communities. Reducing business rates for small businesses, as Labour have called for, will help ensure their survival and competitiveness. As part of our campaign, we have called for all bricks and mortar businesses on the high street to benefit from a cut to business rates, with the system as it stands creating perverse incentives for those businesses which provide essential services to communities such as post offices and ATMs. We should be working towards a future where all bricks and mortar businesses are eligible for a business rates cut, paid for by an online sales tax.

Empty properties create a blight on high streets which can often produce the perception of decline and reduce footfall on high streets further. The new powers Labour has pledged will help to reverse this trend and build community power by providing local government will the right to reopen and revamp empty shops. This will help local authorities and local communities to reshape and regenerate their high streets – helping to create new community-led retail and leisure offerings. By putting communities in the driving seat and investing in community power, we can ensure local communities not only have the ability to save their high streets, but to change them completely for the better.

Protecting and strengthening our high streets will be a key part of the next Labour & Co-operative Government. It’s time for communities, councils and local businesses to have both the power and funding they need to unlock the potential of our high streets.