How Labour will save Britain’s high streets – Rachel Reeves

THE huge problems with fuel supplies and the supply chain crisis have meant yet more challenges for so many businesses in our region.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, say they are committed to reforming business rates to help the nation's high streets.

As I travelled back on the train from Labour’s conference in Brighton, I know many who drove to the event were anxious about whether they had enough fuel to make it home – or would be able to find somewhere to fill up.

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The endless queues at petrol stations have been a nightmare for so many, particularly those who work in the emergency services, our care workers, delivery drivers and all who rely on their car or van for work.

This was Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves addressing the Labour Party conference.

The fuel shortage and disruption to the supply chain is damaging shops and businesses in my Leeds West constituency and across our region as they try to stock up ahead of Christmas – this disruption could not come at a more critical time for our high streets.

They were so important during the pandemic and now face what will be for many a make-or-break time following the end of the furlough scheme on Thursday, which has left almost a million people in limbo.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been challenged to pay a fairer share of tax by Rachel Reeves MP.

Many businesses have been struggling to survive, particularly in the face of the challenge from online retail giants which do not pay as much tax as high street businesses.

To make matters worse, they face further costs when the rates relief scheme ends in March with four out of five retail businesses warning they could be forced to close outlets without Government action.

That is why a Labour government would scrap the current system of business rates and replace it with a fairer way of business taxation – fit for the 21st century.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, say they are committed to reforming business rates to help the nation's high streets.

But those businesses need urgent help now, which is why we are calling on the Government to freeze business rates next year and increase the threshold for small business rates relief – creating a lifeline for thousands of small and medium-sized businesses.

The Government should cover the cost of this much-needed support by increasing the Digital Services Tax to 12 per cent for the next year. Many of the online giants have thrived during the pandemic and it is only fair that they pay their fair share.

We need to see an end to the current unfair system which sees high street businesses forking out over a third of business rates – even though they only make up 15 per cent of the overall economy.

Compare that to what has happened at Amazon. Its revenues rocketed by almost £2bn last year, yet its tax bill went up by under one per cent. If its billionaire founder Jeff Bezos can afford to fly to space, Amazon can afford their taxes here on Earth.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, say they are committed to reforming business rates to help the nation's high streets.

A Labour government would oversee the biggest transformation of our system of business taxation in a generation to help inject fresh life into our high streets and turn them once again into thriving community hubs.

Our new system would help incentivise investment in places like Bramley and Armley in my Leeds West constituency, as well as right across the country. It would support entrepreneurs and reward firms that moved into empty buildings, helping revitalise neighbourhoods.

However, as well as the action I would take as a future Chancellor in a Labour government, it is also vital that we all do everything we can to support our local shops and traders now.

In Bramley, for example, I have been fighting alongside the local community for the benches that had been removed by the owners of the shopping centre reinstated. It might sound like a small thing, but the benches helped ensure the elderly and people with mobility issues felt happier to visit the shops and gave them a chance to meet and chat.

And, while I know it’s a little early to think about buying Christmas presents, I would encourage everyone to shop locally and think about getting gifts from some of our brilliant Yorkshire businesses rather than just going online.

Many local businesses are facing a really difficult time at the moment and we need to do everything can to support them. Labour are both a pro-worker and pro-business party. Increasingly, the Tories are neither.

While Boris Johnson’s government has no idea about the challenges facing people, Labour’s new deal for workers would see the hire-and-fire policy we have seen at firms like British Gas banned – along with zero hours contracts. We would increase the minimum wage, sick pay and maternity, and ensure that employees would have the right to flexible working from day one of their employment.

Working together with businesses and unions, a Labour government would spearhead a national endeavour to rebuild Britain. As Keir Starmer said in his conference speech, despite all the Government’s talk about levelling up we have a situation where motorists cannot even fill up.

The current supply chain crisis is a mess of the Government’s own making which is causing real pain to families and businesses.

Labour has a clear plan to revitalise our high streets by reforming business taxes to get our economy powering forward to create the decent well-paid jobs of the future.

Rachel Reeves is Shadow Chancellor and Labour MP for Leeds West.

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