Northumberland named in 20 most at risk of 'hollowed-out high streets' drawn up by Labour
The Government and council say they are working to support town centres.
Northumberland is in the top 20 places in the country most at risk of ‘hollowed-out high streets’, according to new analysis by Labour.
The party’s research is based on those parts of the country which have the highest proportion of hospitality, tourism, retail and leisure businesses, which are currently closed once again during the national lockdown.
Across England, 11.7% of all businesses fall into these categories, but in Northumberland, this figure stands at 14%.
Cllr Susan Dungworth, the leader of the Labour opposition on Northumberland County Council, said: “Hospitality, tourism, retail and leisure businesses have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic and are facing a cash crisis.
“Closed from trading yet facing shrinking Government support, with cash grants worth just a fraction of the amount made available during the first lockdown, they are experiencing dwindling cash reserves, burdened with debt, and fast approaching a dead end in multiple Government support schemes.”
As previously reported, the county council last week published its Northumberland Covid-19 route map 2021, which includes a five-point plan for economic recovery.
One of these pillars is ‘investing in our places, culture and tourism’, which covers the regeneration of town centres.
Conservative council leader Glen Sanderson said: “We know that rural and coastal areas have been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic due to reliance on tourism, as have more deprived communities, but there are significant opportunities here to drive growth in areas of strategic importance to the UK and support recovery and growth, particularly in clean and green energy, manufacturing and life sciences, building on our cultural and environmental strengths, renewal of our towns and investment in our places.
“It’s going to be challenging, but what won’t change is our commitment to ensuring a long-lasting recovery from Covid-19 from which all our communities benefit.”
Meanwhile, major regeneration projects in Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth town centres are all at various stages of development, with the latter two backed by various Government grants.
Nationally, Labour has urged the Government to confirm it will extend the 100% business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for at least another six months, continue the reduced rate of VAT for businesses in the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors, and give businesses greater flexibility to manage debt, including student loan-style arrangements.
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “Standing by and letting these businesses collapse with the vaccine roll-out making huge progress and recovery in sight would be absolutely devastating for business owners and employees who have done the right thing by shutting to help tackle the virus.
“The Government must stand up for local high streets and abandon the sink or swim approach. They must urgently confirm they will extend business rates relief to give struggling businesses the breathing room they need. We cannot allow these places to be hollowed out.”
A Government spokesman said: “We want to see thriving high streets, which is why we’ve spent tens of billions of pounds supporting shops, restaurants and cafes throughout the pandemic.
“And we’ve extended our furlough scheme through to April as well as providing £4.6billion extra in grants earlier this year, so that people have certainty that help is in place.
“At the upcoming Budget, we’ll outline the next stages of our Plan for Jobs to support businesses and families across the UK. That has been our priority throughout the past year and it will be the priority for the year to come.”