On 11th January, Mary spoke in the Commons about her love of independent businesses in the City of Durham. Highlighting the higher than average level of independent businesses in the constituency compared to the rest of the country, Mary went on to discuss Labour’s plan to help our highstreets.

In a debate on reducing costs for businesses, Mary drew attention to the higher than average number of independent shops in the City of Durham. “Part of what makes Durham so special”, Mary said, “are the wonderful independent businesses that are the pride of our high street.”

Speaking about Labour’s plan to rejuvenate high streets up and down the country such as Silver Street in Durham, Mary said “When Labour are in Government, we will scrap the outdated business rates system entirely and replace it with the fundamentally reformed business rates property tax. Independent businesses in Durham are ready to bounce back. The only question is: will the Government let them?”

Mary has been an avid supporter of the City of Durham’s independent businesses, regularly visiting and chatting to business owners about their experiences of the pandemic. As MP, Mary will continue to stand up for the independent businesses of Durham – Labour’s promise to scrap business rates shows that Mary’s commitment to independent businesses is matched by the Labour Party.

 

The full text of Mary’s speech can be found below:

I’m immensely proud to represent Durham and part of what makes it so special are the wonderful independent businesses that are the pride of our high streets.

We have fantastic pubs like Fram Ferment, the Dun Cow and the Browney. We have lovely shops unique to Durham like Wing and a Prayer, Elvet and Bailey, and Discovering Durham. La Chocolatrice make incredible chocolates, Circle Vintage and Pears Boutique sell quality clothing, and don’t even get me started on how much I love our indoor and outdoor markets.
I reference these places Madam Deputy Speaker because Durham’s high streets are home to a higher than average number of independent shops and we cannot afford to lose them.

The decline of the high street is undeniable. And, as the Durham Business Improvement District points out, nowhere better represents this than Silver Street. Once the artery that ran to the beating heart of our city, Silver Street is now littered with empty shops and serves as a sad reminder of the struggle that many bricks and mortar shops are facing.

While the pandemic has accelerated this decline, it started long before 2020, and it will come as no surprise to my constituents that the North East has the highest vacancy rates in England.
Although there are many reasons for the high street’s struggles, chief among them is the sky-high business rates. And what I am hearing from businesses in Durham is that the priority must be to level the playing field between high street businesses and online and out of town retail.

And that’s why I’m glad that Labour is calling for business rates to be cut immediately in 2022/23, funded by a one-off rise in the Digital Services Tax. And when we are in government, Labour will scrap the outdated business rates system entirely and would replace it with a fundamentally reformed business property tax.

Independent businesses in Durham are ready to bounce back, the only question is if the Government will let them.

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