THE Government must work more closely with councils to help troubled town centres such as King Street in South Shields, according to Prime Minister David Cameron.
He issued his plea to work together during a visit to Tyne Dock in South Shields yesterday ahead of next week’s local and European elections.
Accompanied by the region’s Conservative MEP, Martin Callanan, he was taken on a tour of the thriving Port of Tyne.
Asked what can be done to help solve the problems faced by struggling town centre shopping areas, such as King Street in South Shields, he defended his Goverment’s record.
He said the coalition is open to adopting new strategies like the Portas Pilot scheme, which saw 12 towns being given a slice of £1.2m in grants and advice from retail expert Mary Portas to help rejuvenate their high streets.
Mr Cameron said: “The best thing we can do to help retailers is reducing their taxes.
“This year, we have introduced the employment allowance, which is saving business up to £2,000 on their national insurance contributions. That helps every shop on the high street.
“We’ve had the biggest reforms in relief in terms of rates that we’ve seen in perhaps the last 20 years.
“We need to work very closely with local councils on plans and strategies to help keep our high streets working well.
“We are open to doing that with the likes of the Portas Pilot scheme.
“There are lots of opportunities and attention being given to it. Real money is being put on the table through these tax cuts.”
South Tyneside Council did not wish to comment on the issue.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck says the Prime Minister would have seen how much potential there is in the region during his visit, but she believes the Government needs to invest more money in the north to create further success stories such as the Port of Tyne.
She said: “One of the reasons the Port is such a success is the millions of pounds of investment it has received from Europe and the access we have to European markets, but the Tories are endangering those benefits and endangering jobs by placing an arbitrary deadline on an in-out European referendum.”