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Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Minister, commenting on today’s Parliamentary debate on the future of town centres and high streets, said:

“High Streets and town centres are the heart of the communities that we live in. But many are in crisis with retailers going out of business every month and more and more empty shops blighting them.

“Today’s debate is a wake-up call to the Tory-led Government. They need to take urgent action to stop more famous names like Blacks, Peacocks and Woolworths disappearing and shops like hmv and Habitat from massively scaling back.

“High streets have been hit hard by the Government’s VAT hike and are suffering from the decision to cut spending and raise taxes too far and too fast, hitting consumer spending. Labour would reverse the Government's damaging VAT rise for a temporary period, providing immediate help for our high streets, as part of our five point plan for jobs and growth.

“The problem looks set to be worsened by the Government’s contradictory planning reforms which have so far failed to give a clear town centre first policy. Such a policy is essential to helping struggling high streets up and down the country.

“Labour has also been calling for action to be taken which promotes the positive use of empty shops, gives local people the power to shape retail plans for their area and introduces a competition test in the planning system. This out of touch Government’s failing economic policy is hitting high streets hard and without serious reform the situation may only get worse. Mary Portas’ report is a real challenge to them to do much better and help save our high street.”

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