Over in the Fleetwood end of this diverse constituency I represent we’ve had disappointing news this week with the closure of the Marks and Spencer store at the Freeport Outlet Village in Fleetwood. It once again focuses the mind on the importance of shopping locally if we want vibrant town centres that bring jobs and prosperity. One of the reasons M+S is closing is down to many of us choosing to shop online. The UK is now second in Europe for making online shopping purchases just slightly behind Norway.
Last year 5,855 shops closed on our UK high streets. So far this year some big brand names have announced closures including Toys R Us, Maplin, Prezzo, Carpetright and Mothercare.
What is the Government doing about this? Nothing. They have no plans for the sector.
The next Labour government would support retail by investing in skills, developing a Catapult Centre for retail (an institution set up to drive innovation in a particular sector) and create a retail sector council.
Here in Lancaster due to the foresight of many businesses, Lancaster BID was established. Business owners with properties that have a rateable value of £10,000 and above within the BID area agree to make an investment of 1.5% on a fixed rateable value of their business. These payments – the BID levy – generate a significant income to spend on improving and promoting the city centre as a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination. BID is a not for profit organisation which aims to create a more prosperous city centre. If you’re a business owner and you haven’t got involved I urge you to do so.
As consumers I also urge you to consider supporting our local shops, getting involved in the exciting events that take place in the city centre, visit our fantastic heritage sites and make the most of the amazing cultural offerings from our theatres to live music, nightclubs and bars to restaurants and street food. If you’re a student don’t go rushing off elsewhere when you graduate before looking at the amazing employment opportunities there are here in the city. Retaining and growing talent is as important as attracting students to our fantastic university. Our future is in our hands – let’s make sure it’s the future we want.