Today, I travelled up to the North Yorkshire town of Yarm. A buzzing local high street even on a Wednesday afternoon! There are very few empty shops and loads of great independents, as well as larger businesses – showcasing the power of diversity. I visited Savers, Boots, Sainsburys, Caffe Nero and many other great businesses. 

I was there to meet with some of the Shadow Cabinet, a great mix of women leaders – Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner - for the launch of Labour's plan for high streets

Reflections on our discussions

  • The Labour team are keen to do more visits in the lead up to the election, so if any members would like to volunteer to host them, then do let our Corporate Affairs team know

  • On crime, our meeting came on the day of the current government’s announcement to create a standalone offence for violence against a retail worker. Yvette, and Labour more widely, has been critical to achieving this success, so I shared the industry's thanks and we discussed how the legislation would likely be implemented, and the need to ensure there are sufficient local police to attend incidents. Police resource is one of the five areas of Labour’s five-point high street plan (the others being community banking hubs, reforming business rates, ending late payments for SMEs, and revamping empty premises with local right to buy rights). Yvette is passionate about ensuring better responses to community issues and will continue to hold government to account.

  • On employment, Angela Rayner is ensuring the unions are aligned on the detail of Labour's New Deal for Working People, which sets out proposals for employment law reform. I said that retailers were supportive of many of the measures – such as the right to flexible working from day one of employment, to banning unpaid internships - but the industry has some concerns on other proposals. Some, like the creation of a single status of 'worker' in law and fair pay agreements/sectorial bargaining would have to go to consultation and would therefore not be in the employment bill Labour plan to introduce within 100 days of entering government (on fair pay agreements, we understand that Labour's focus is purely on the social care sector, not retail, where the party recognises good relationships between retailers and unions). On other areas, like banning prohibitive zero hours contracts, their key thrust is ensuring all the rights don’t solely sit with the employer. Their ambition is that this will be more about a reset of relationships between employers and employees rather than the detail of the legislation.

  • On business rates, Rachel was interested to hear about the research we are starting, which will look at the tax burden of different industries including retail – due for completion this July. Labour have also been continuing their work on plans for rates reform, and we agreed to stay connected on respective work. We also discussed the need for much more effective cross government co-ordination/oversight of how different bits of regulation fit together and impact different parts of the economy – given a theme of many of my conversations with retailers is on the impact on business of the tsunami of different new regulations.