Great Britain

Labour reveals commission on revitalising high street post Covid

LABOUR is set to reveal on Monday the details of a new commission looking at how to rebuild high streets in city and town centres decimated by Covid-19 closures.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow Chancellor, is to visit Dewsbury on Monday to announce the Rebuilding Our High Streets Commission.

Experts from the retail, leisure and hospitality sector, as well as officials from trade unions and social enterprises, will come together on the commission over the next six months to advise Labour.

Non essential retail was able to reopen last week, as well as pubs and restaurants for outdoor service, following the relaxation of Covid restrictions.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to thousands of job losses, including the demise of high street icons like Debenhams and Topshop, and accelerated the damage cause to high streets due to the shift to online shopping and out of town business centres.

Many pubs, restaurants and cafes have also fallen victim to the pandemic, having barely opened for more than 12 months.

Labour said its independent review will look at how high streets can be supported post-pandemic to continue to be places where people shop, socialise, meet, work and live.

The commissioners will come up with ideas for bringing empty commercial properties back into use, levelling the playing field between bricks-and-mortar businesses and online firms, and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation to reflect the needs of communities, according to the party.

Speaking before her visit, Ms Dodds said: “Our high streets have been through a gruelling year, and Conservative changes to planning laws and their failure to reform the broken business rates system mean there are more challenges ahead.

“Labour is determined to deliver a brighter future for our high streets as part of our mission to make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in.

“That doesn’t mean harking back to a vision of the past, but finding ways to make our town centres places we can be proud of and where communities can come together.

“This commission will offer independent advice to Labour on how we achieve that.”

The party said it had decided to set up the review after new figures revealed that over the past decade high streets across the UK had lost close to 10,000 shops, more than 5,700 pubs, 7,400 bank branches and almost 1,200 libraries.

Labour said the Covid crisis had “only made things worse”, with nearly 180,000 retail jobs lost and up to 200,000 more at risk this year.

The commission is due to meet regularly over the next six months with members of the shadow cabinet, including Ms Dodds, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed and shadow business minister Lucy Powell.

Its membership will include Michael Meadows from British Land, Peter Holbrook from Social Enterprise UK, retail union USDAW’s Paddy Lillis, Councillor Tricia Gilby from Chesterfield Borough Council, and Peter Kinsella, owner of restaurant chain Lunya.

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