Labour’s desperate bid to revive high street as thousands of pubs shut doors

Labour’s Rachel Reeves grilled on plans for business rates

Labour has launched a renewed focus on saving and reviving the great British high street as part of a bid to make voters love their communities.

The pledge by senior shadow cabinet member Jonathan Reynolds comes as new analysis from Labour shows more than 6,000 pubs have shut since the Tories took power.

In the South east – the birthplace of Rishi Sunak and home of Jeremy Hunt – 1,000 pubs have been lost since 2010.

Labour says UK high streets have been “battered” by a “perfect storm” of rising costs and outdated business rates.

Mr Reynolds will address hospitality leaders tomorrow, vowing his party doesn’t want to be judged on spreadsheet figures, but “how our high streets look and feel.”

He is expected to say: “Hospitality is where people spend their hard earned money and use the services we value in our day to day lives”.

“Keir’s mission to make Labour the highest sustained growing economy in the G7 won’t be judged by us by looking at figures on a spreadsheet.

“It will be judged by how our high streets look and feel, by working people having more money at the end of the month to treat themselves and their families and by pubs, shops and restaurants thriving, investing and growing.”

Mr Reynolds will renew Labour’s pledge to reform business rates, which he will say are an “outdated, archaic system.”

He will promise to “rebalance the burden between bricks and clicks”, ensuring online tech giants pay their fair share in order to create “vibrant high streets people want to socialise in.”

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According to Labour’s analysis, plans to reform business rates for small businesses would save the average pub or cafe £2,600 each.

Mr Reynolds has previously set out that Labour would raise the threshold for Small Business Rates Relief in 2023-24, paid for by raising the Digital Services Tax paid by online giants like Amazon.

The South West saw 730 pub closures between 2010 and 2022, the second highest after the South East.

London, the North East and Northern Ireland clung on to the most, losing just 330, 110 and 220 respectively.

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Mr Reynolds will set out his pitch at the UK hospitality conference, which this year is focusing on “regeneration, reinvention and growth of our strong, respected industry.”

When shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves pledged to stabilise business rates taxation in March this year, Tory Chairman Greg Hands responded by saying: “We don’t need Labour to do a tax review to know that they’d put taxes up on business.”

“Corporation tax remains lower than it was at any point of the last Labour government.”

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