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Labour ‘new shops bonus’ aims to tackle American candy stores on UK high streets

todayDecember 26, 2023

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Labour ‘new shops bonus’ aims to tackle American candy stores on UK high streets

Labour has vowed to tackle rogue American candy stores – and has urged the government to help restore the British high street.

The party is calling on the government to introduce a “new shops bonus” for any legitimate businesses which open up on shopping streets, starting with Oxford Street in central London.

There are currently more than 20 US-themed sweet shops open in the busy shopping hub, which was once home to dozens of major flagship stores.

Labour says these American sweet shops are almost always run out of shell companies that have no assets and fabricated company directors, and they typically avoid paying business rates.

Westminster City Council is investigating unpaid business rates of around £9m from 26 shops on Oxford Street alone.

But James Murray, the shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, has pledged that a Labour government would work with councils to restore the British high street – and ensure legitimate businesses open their doors again.

He said: “We are calling on the government to work with councils, including Westminster City Council, to incentivise legitimate businesses to open up on the high street - rather than these shell companies that avoid paying their bills and commit other offences.

“In government, Labour would replace business rates with a new system, and we would use powers in the Economic Crime Act to crack down on rip-off businesses and make sure there are proper checks in place when companies are being set up.”

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Under Labour’s proposals, shop owners would be offered a three-month business rate holiday within their first year in a new premises.

This would be paid by reallocating funding used to provide three months of “empty property relief”, the party said.

At the moment, this almost always goes entirely to the landlord, rather than helping new tenants.

Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, has welcomed proposals to reignite the high street.

He said: “Like councils right across Britain, we want to restore our high streets as the proud centres of local shopping and social life they should be.

“We have reduced candy stores on Oxford Street by a third, but there is only so much we can do without national government playing its part too.

“That is why giving us these new powers would be a very welcome and important change to help us go much further, so we can make sure London’s West End has the buzz it deserves this Christmas and beyond.”

Written by: Newsroom

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