Help the high streets plea

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HELP for Britain’s ailing high streets should be a top priority for MPs in 2013, the retail industry’s trade body has urged.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) wants them to step up the pressure on the Government to reverse a planned 2.6 per cent rise in business rates due in April.

The call comes in the wake of recent figures showing the empty shops rate in town centres has reached a new high of 11.3 per cent – Gosport stands at 13 per cent.

A poll of MPs also revealed that two-thirds believe high streets in their constituencies have deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.

BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: ‘MPs understand that high streets are focal points for communities and essential to local economies. But many high streets are facing a real endurance test in these challenging times, and rising operating costs are making matters worse.’