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Centre for Cities ‘Will Covid-19 kill the high street?’ report should be a wakeup call for the Government says Usdaw

Date: 25 January 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw has again urged the Government to act to save our shops, after an independent think tank report finds that the pandemic has had a major impact on town and city centres.
The Centre for Cities research found that across all 52 cities and large towns covered in their report, 2,426 commercial units became vacant during the pandemic, compared to just 1,347 between 2018 and 2020. Formally stronger city centres were hit the hardest as customers stayed away, with high street businesses in cities and large towns losing more than 35% of their potential takings.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This report confirms what we’ve all seen when walking down any high street, that the retail sector has been impacted by the pandemic, which made worse existing difficulties. The report highlights that previously strong city centres have suffered more through the pandemic than those who were already struggling before Covid. This suggests that high streets are being ‘levelled down’, rather than ‘levelled up’ as promised by the Government.
 
“Usdaw is looking for the Government to work with unions and businesses and develop an urgent recovery plan for retail, looking at the wider pressures facing the sector such as business rates, rents and lease arrangements. This plan should also include continued support for local authorities to help them revitalise their local high street, making them hubs for our communities.
 
“We urgently need to level the playing field between online and bricks-and-mortar retail, something Usdaw and many major retailers have called on the Government to do. A 1% online sales levy could raise around £1.5 billion and fund a 20% cut in the current outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax.
 
“A retail recovery plan must also recognise the contribution of the people who work in the industry. For too long retail has been a byword for low pay and insecure jobs. If we want retail to prosper, we need to make sure that retail jobs are good jobs. We hope the Government is listening.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
 
Cities Outlook 2022 looks in-depth at the state of UK high streets to get a sense of the short-term impact of the pandemic on Britain's town and city centres and the long-term consequences and implications this has for the Government’s levelling up agenda: https://www.centreforcities.org/publication/cities-outlook-2022/
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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