Emma Lewell-Buck MP: South Shields town centre is in need of radical help
I have long campaigned and held Ministers to account over the lack of any cohesive and strategic vision for our town centres.
New analysis by the Labour Party shows there are 100,000 fewer people working in the retail industry than there were in 2015.
Last year alone, the high street lost a total of 1,800 shops nationally.
This is no surprise to us as along with many other coastal communities our town centre has been badly affected by a lack of Government support and investment.
This coupled with their inaction on low pay, insecure work and the rise of zero hours contracts has led to people not being able to spend as much as they used to.
Indeed recent Resolution Foundation analysis revealed that pay is now ‘£13 per week less than ten years ago’, almost £700 per year.
These trends reflect the fact that in Tory Britain, wage growth is slowing except for the richest executives.
Last month it was revealed that Amazon UK’s corporation tax bill fell despite profits tripling.
The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest man with an estimated net worth of more than £100billion.
I am pleased that a Labour government will radically reform business rates to ease the burden on the traditional high street and town centres in an age of online shopping and to create a fairer system of business taxation for all.
King Street has lost many of its shops over the years. Our once vibrant street is very different to what it was.
My constituents tell me that King Street does not have the choice it used to, the growth of out of town shopping centres with free parking and online shopping has radically changed the way we shop.
That is why our town centre needs radical change.
Labour are also calling on the Government to investigate the issue of shops being left empty by landlords in an effort to solve this crisis.
I am sure all of us would welcome this and like to see the many vacant units in King Street bought back into use.
In an effort to further help our high streets Labour are also calling on the Government to investigate price-gouging by car parking firms who charge over the top rates and exorbitant fines.
But there is hope, despite inaction from Government, some areas such as Preston have been tackling the crisis in a very progressive way.
There has been investment in local businesses, creating co-operative companies and a local bank.
These efforts have meant that money that would usually go to large corporations, stakeholders and headquarters in London stays within the local economy.
Our town centres are changing, people’s shopping habits have changed but sadly our Government has not kept up.