The Labour party is calling for a temporary cut in VAT from 20% to 17.5% to help boost Britain's ailing high streets.
The demand is part of a campaign to save the high street as figures from the Javelin Group reveal 14.6% of retail premises in the UK are now vacant.
The Javelin Group has predicted that if current trends continue, a quarter of all non-food retail outlets in the UK could be vacant by 2020. This also follows a recent spate of household-name high street retailers going under or having to close premises.
Gill's Cruise Centre is latest high street travel agency to close during the economic downturn.
As part of a four-point plan, Labour wants to give local people and retailers a say on any retail plans for their area and create a ‘competition test’ in the planning system to promote a level playing field between small and large shops.
The party also plans to repeat its empty shops initiative, enabling councils to find new uses for empty shops, such as using vacant units for cultural, community or learning services, rather than leaving them empty.
Jack Dromey MP, Labour's shadow local government minister, said: “One of the things I hear from my constituents is how the character of the local high street has changed. The high street is not what it once was, they say. And I know many other MPs hear the same – we want to put that right."
Chuka Umunna MP, Labour's shadow small business and enterprise minister, said: "The government has failed to get banks lending to businesses, and has hit retailers with this year’s hike in VAT. The recent wave of high street business failures should send a signal to ministers on the real pressures which firms are under."
"A temporary cut in VAT would help consumers and businesses now and would help us get the deficit down."
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