'Save our Shops' - Hartlepool MP Mike Hill backs union fight to protect town's high street

Hartlepool’s MP is backing a campaign calling for action to save the nation’s high streets.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 12:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 1:39 pm

Mike Hill is supporting the shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw’s Save Our Shops crusade to breathe life back into high streets and shopping centres amid the growth of online shopping.

Mr Hill said: “While we don’t have a high street as such we are non the less seeing the effects online shopping is having on retail outlets in the town’s main shopping centre; so many household names are disappearing and the number of empty units is growing.

“Shops have to contend with high business rates, increasing rents and competition with online retailers. Staff have to contend with low wages and insecure work; something which the GMB Union is also highlighting in its campaign to defend terms and conditions for Asda workers.

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Hartlepool MP Mike Hill
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

“The reality is that unless the Government addresses the issue of the rise of online shopping and its effect on traditional retail shopping the traditional high street or town centre offer will die.”

Usdaw says hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in retail and accuse the Government of doing little to tackle the challenges faced by high street and in local communities.

The union’s campaign seeks to create a level playing field between online and bricks and mortar retailer by changing the economic framework on everything from car parking to rates, rents and reforming the tax system.

It also aims to improve productivity by addressing low pay and insecure work, while giving staff a say in the future of the business they work for and on the introduction of new technology.

And it wants the Government to help challenge negative perceptions about working in retail.

In December, the Government announced a new £1billion Future High Streets Fund to help local areas respond to and adapt to changes.

It includes funding for a new High Streets Taskforce to provide expertise and hands-on support.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This scheme is going to reenergise and transform even more of our high streets – helping them to attract new businesses, boost local growth, and create new infrastructure and jobs.”