Labour is to reveal the details of a high street commission designed to inform its policies on how to rebuild the fortunes of city and town centres ravaged by Covid-enforced closures.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds will use a trip to Dewsbury in West Yorkshire to announce an independent Rebuilding Our High Streets Commission, bringing together experts from businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality, as well as representatives of the trade union and social enterprise sectors.
The commission will meet regularly over the course of the next six months to offer independent advice to the party.
The relaxation of coronavirus restrictions saw non-essential retail reopen to customers last week, while hospitality can serve punters outside.
But with Covid-19 closures leading to thousands of retail job casualties, 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 also 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 on Monday, 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 Liverpool Spanish restaurant chain Lunya.
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