Labour vows to back high streets and overhaul business rates

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Regeneration: Labour pledges to "breathe life back into high streets" (Pictured: Jonathan Reynolds / Credit: UK Parliament)
Regeneration: Labour pledges to "breathe life back into high streets" (Pictured: Jonathan Reynolds / Credit: UK Parliament)

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Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy, has pledged to "breathe life back into the high streets" by supporting the hospitality sector.

Speaking at the UKHospitality ​Summer Conference in London on Wednesday 14 June, Reynolds laid out Labour's regeneration plans if the party is successful in the next general election, expected to take place next year. 

He said: "Keir Starmer'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, by businesses thriving and investing.

“That is the measure of our success, and we won’t get there by accident. It requires a Government that's in the picture when it comes to businesses' needs.

“The Government can't fix everything and it’s not the job of politicians to tell people how to run their business. But what I know you want is a partner in Government and ministers who are willing to listen and respond.”

Reynolds claimed the current business rates system was “archaic” and said reformation was “a priority” for the next Labour Government.

“We also want to pay particular attention to the problems with business rates​. We believe the system is archaic and holding firms back.

Invest in skills

“Our review of the business tax regime, which looks at how to increase certainty and investment, will include the hospitality sector”, he continued.

Moreover, the minister added there “had to be” work to “reform” the planning system to “ensure businesses can grow and to breathe life back into high streets”.

In addition, Reynolds detailed the need to “focus on promoting long-term careers” within the sector.

“We also intend to reform the apprenticeship levy, to allow firms to invest in skills that further their communities and businesses”, he continued.

Reynolds also claimed the Labour party understood the “worry about tax burdens on hospitality businesses during such a difficult time”, and assured attendees its ministers would “listen”.

He added: “We know that certainty and stability are vital.

“The past few years have been hard, and they continue to be. You’ve been jumping from one crisis to another; Brexit, Covid, and now the cost-of-living crisis. [It has] not been an easy time to run a business or to work in hospitality.

“People talk about sleepless nights, the overwhelming worry for staff in the workforce, some have felt they had little choice but to walk away from businesses built up over many years.

“The last few years have been marked by too much yo-yoing and last-minute emergency packages announced at the 11th hour.

“The resilience people in the sector have shown is nothing short of incredible, and I want to say thank you for that.”

However, the minister stated the next labour Government would not “open Brexit wounds of the past” but focus on “tangibly improving” it.

Regeneration plans 

The pledge from the shadow cabinet member comes as recent data analysis from the Labour party revealed more than 6,000 pubs had closed their doors for good since 2010, according to reports in The Express​.

In addition, figures from UKHospitality​ earlier this week showed the sector had boosted its economic contributions by some £20bn​ in the last six years and could deliver another £29bn to the economy annually with the right Government support. 

Reynolds added hospitality settings were integral to “the nation’s happiness” as well as being “vital” to the economy.

He said: “Hospitality is 3% of our economic output, and it employs millions of people. I don't need to tell you the impact that you have.

“In my own area of my constituency, hospitality has been a huge boost to the high street, but also developed a sense of community. We're basing our regeneration plans around what this sector provides to an area.

“These are the places people spend their hard-earned money and the services that we value in our day to day lives.”

“Under Labour, you'll have that stable environment you need to plan.”

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