The government needs to do more to save the High Street: a response to the Arcadia group administration news

Burton is part of the Arcadia group who may go ito administration in the next few days
Photo from Creative Commons

We learned today that it was likely that the Arcadia Group (which includes Burton, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins) would go into administration in a matter of days. This could mean job losses of 13,000. The retail trade union, Usdaw, which represents 400,000 members and the Tees Valley mayoral candidate, Jessie Joe Jacobs have responded to this devastating news, and are urging the current Tees Valley Mayor and the Westminster government to act quickly and do more to save and support the High Street. They emphasise that an urgent recovery plan is needed.

Joanne Thomas, Usdaw’s North East Divisional Officer said: “This is a devastating blow for workers at Arcadia and could not have come at a worse time, just before Christmas. We are seeking urgent meetings with management and we urge them to end their longstanding anti-union stance and engage with us. In the meantime,”” we are providing our members with the support and advice they need at this difficult time.

“2020 has been a terrible year for the high street, with more than 230,000 retail jobs lost and over 20,000 shops permanently shut. Retail job losses and store closures are absolutely devastating and lays bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces. Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities.

“What retail needs is a tripartite approach of unions, employers and government working together to develop a recovery plan. We have long called for an industrial strategy for retail to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency.

“Retail is an important feature of our towns and cities, it employs three million people across the UK and we need a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet”

Jessie Joe Jacobs, candidate for Tees Valley Mayor said: “Our High Streets are the heart and soul of our communities, my family’s business Jacobs’ carpets began on Stockton High Street and I am committed to seeing new life breathed back into it. Today’s news about the Arcadia group is desperately sad but we won’t go down without a fight.”

“We can’t keep tinkering around the edges if we are to save the High Street and we sadly need more than free parking. Although I welcome this and the Towns funding; this on its own is not enough. We need a complete overhaul of how High Streets are managed, taxed and developed for the future.”

“The Government needs to level the playing field on taxation between online and the high street, reform business rates that are strangling so many businesses, as well as creating a fund for innovation, giving the idea creators and entrepreneurs the funding to try out new business models and ideas for the High Street; this might be within leisure, fitness and tourism.”

“We need a strategy enabling councils to breathe new life into town centres by making them community hubs; encouraging the move of more public services into town centre locations, such as learning, living, youth and health and care provision. We lastly need an immediate review into the relationship between landlords, government and tenants. Rents are too high and lease arrangements too restrictive. Owners of these properties must play their part and can’t continue to sit on empty buildings whilst the High Street goes to the wall.”

“We are at crisis point and it’s going to need everyone coming together to secure the future we need.”

Usdaw has called for a recovery plan to be developed with trade unions and retail employers and include:

  • Fundamental reform of business rates. The Government committed to a review of business rates earlier this year, but assurance is needed that this will not be delayed further.
  • Reform of UK tax law to ensure that companies pay their fair share of tax through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore havens, with the aim of creating a level playing field between online and high street retailers.
  • Funding for local authorities so they can invest in their local economy, transport networks and high streets. We cannot revive our high streets if core services continue to be undermined.
  • Investment in skills for retail workers, including through union learning and high-quality apprenticeships. This should include an in-depth assessment of emerging trends and potential skills shortages/gaps within the sector.
  • A new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours.

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