On 6th April, Mary met with Graham Soult, a local expert on high-streets, to walk around Silver Street and visit some local business owners.
Mary’s discussions with Graham were wide ranging and focused on policies that would help to reinvigorate Silver Street. The street has, like many high-streets around the country, had a difficult period throughout the pandemic and focus is now on ensuring that the street becomes the vibrant place it once was.
From the discussions Mary had with Graham, it was clear that sensible policies to address the decline of high-streets around the country would include measures such as: scrapping business rates to attract more independent businesses to take tenancy on the high-street, making the ownership of empty shops more transparent so that ownership can be sought swiftly, and ensuring that rent costs do not become a barrier to high-street businesses.
Mary also visited Moon Jewellery, a business on Silver Street where she and Graham met with Jo, the owner. The store is a real gem in the City centre and the discussions that Mary had with Jo were invaluable in getting the experiences of owners of local businesses on the high-street. The main focus was again, business rates which can be a road block in getting more people onto the high-street as business owners.
The Labour Party have committed to scrap business rates in Government, with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves saying they “do not deliver” for the taxpayer.
Speaking at Party Conference last September Reeves said “The next Labour government will scrap business rates. We will carry out the biggest overhaul of business taxation in a generation, so our businesses can lead the pack, not watch opportunities go elsewhere.”
After the visit and meeting Mary said
Silver Street in Durham deserves to be a vibrant place full of thriving local independent businesses. Meeting Graham and Jo in Durham affirmed to me that the help that is needed for the high-street will not be found under this Conservative government. Labour has a plan to reinvigorate our highstreets and make sure that places like Silver Street are once again bustling spaces of local trade, fit for the 2020s and beyond. Scrapping the barrier that is business rates will make the high-street more attractive to businesses – a Labour government would do this.