former M&S store in Commercial Road
former M&S store in Commercial Road

Our once thriving high streets are having the life drained out of them. As business rates rise, local traders suffer. When well known shops close, shoppers go eleswhere and money goes out of the city. We are seeing this happen all across Portsmouth, with the closure of big brands as well as smaller independent shops. But Labour councils across the country are stepping up.

At February’s council budget meeting, Portsmouth Labour set out plans to create a dedicated task force to revive Southsea’s high streets. Sadly the £2.5m programme was voted down by both the Lib Dems and Tories who voted against it. Commenting on the disappointing lack of action, our Central Southsea candidate Charlotte Greada said:

“Local government can play a role in reviving our towns and cities: through having public institutions, like hospitals and schools, procuring services from local businesses, like in Preston; through helping co-operatives and worker-owned businesses; and through changing the experience of the high street.

Charlotte added: “In recent years Labour-led Preston has seen jobs increase. It has been voted Englands most improved city and best place to live in the North West. They’ve done that with a powerful vision for local services and businesses – I want the same for Portsmouth”.

Charlotte co-hosted a local business forum with St Jude candidate Graham Heaney and city MP Stephen Morgan recently to hear concerns and ideas for actions she can take with the Portsmouth MP as pressure mounts on the city council and Government to finally act in Southsea and our city centre.

Graham Heaney our St Jude candidate added: “Lobbying has ensured the local authority has finally applied for a much-sought after national High Streets fund. Residents have told me they’ve had leaflets from the Tories and Lib Dems claiming they want to ‘sort out our high streets’ if thats true why would they both vote down these sensible plans?”

Meanwhile in the north of the city Rumal Khan our Copnor candidate has been working local traders in North End after being snubbed by a multimillion-pound bid to rejuvenate the area was abandoned. The money which would come from the future high street fund that the Lib Dems have only just applied for despite being created in Autumn last year.

Rumal said: “The ideas our Labour councillors put forward at the last council meeting are exactly what we need to help our struggling High Streets. These plans where a city wide approach that would see a dedicated task force work across the city. Whilst the Lib Dems and Tories now go head to head blaming each other, we need more Labour councillors on the city council to get plans like ours into action. This just proves what we’ve said all along the Lib Dems lack ambition and the Tories would rather invest outside of the city”.

Nationally we’ve announced a five point plan to revive our High Streets includes reforms to the business rates system to ease the burden on traditional high streets and town centres, Rebecca Long Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, has called on the Government to consider:

  • Establishing a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority, to make it easier to bring boarded up shops back into use.
  • Launching an inquiry into excessive car parking charges levied by private firms, to examine the benefits of promoting free parking in city centres

Labours five point plan to revive our High Streets also include;

  • Ban ATM charges and stop bank branch and post office closures
  • Provide free bus travel for under-25s
  • Free public wifi in town centres

We’ve got the ambition and ideas to kick start the rebuilding of High Streets in Portsmouth.

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