Labour calls for government action to help the North's ailing town centres

Roberta Blackman Woods MPLABOUR has today called for government action to help the North's ailing town centres. 

As statistics for 2011 show, the North's city and town centres are struggling in the face of the tough economic climate. Figures from the Local Data Company show that Stockton on Tees, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle have over 20% shop vacancy rates. 

MPs in the House of Commons today debated the issue. 

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Minister and MP for City Of Durham said:

“High Streets and town centres are the heart of the communities that we live in. But many are in crisis with retailers going out of business every month and more and more empty shops blighting them. 

“Today’s debate is a wake-up call to the Tory-led Government. They need to take urgent action to stop more famous names like Blacks, Peacocks and Woolworths disappearing and shops like hmv and Habitat from massively scaling back. 

“High streets have been hit hard by the Government’s VAT hike and are suffering from the decision to cut spending and raise taxes too far and too fast, hitting consumer spending. Labour would reverse the Government's damaging VAT rise for a temporary period, providing immediate help for our high streets, as part of our five point plan for jobs and growth. 

“The problem looks set to be worsened by the Government’s contradictory planning reforms which have so far failed to give a clear town centre first policy. Such a policy is essential to helping struggling high streets up and down the country. 

“Labour has also been calling for action to be taken which promotes the positive use of empty shops, gives local people the power to shape retail plans for their area and introduces a competition test in the planning system. This out of touch Government’s failing economic policy is hitting high streets hard and without serious reform the situation may only get worse. Mary Portas’ report is a real challenge to them to do much better and help save our high street.”



Notes to editors: 

1. The full report from Mary Portas was published in December 2011 and can be downloaded from

2. Data from the Local Data Company - first half of 2011 


North East Top 5 Shops Vacancy Rates


POSTownH1 2011+/-% point change

1Hartlepool (Town Centre)27.94.9

2Stockton-on-Tees (Town Centre)27.4-1.3

3Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Town Centre)23.16.1

4Sunderland (Town Centre)20.7-0.8

5Bishop Auckland (Town Centre)19.4-1.4