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Jeremy Corbyn vows to save the high street on Bolton visit

Vacant high street shops should be given to start-ups and community projects to reverse a "retail apocalypse" and stop the UK's town centres becoming "ghost streets", Labour has said.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn said councils should be given the power to reopen abandoned shops which have been left vacant for 12 months or more.

On a visit to Bolton on Saturday, Mr Corbyn said the new proposals would rejuvenate Britain's "struggling" high streets by bringing back into use some of the estimated 29,000 physical retail units which have been abandoned for over a year.

Under Labour's plan, local authorities will be able to turn vacant shops over to start-ups, co-operative businesses and community projects.

The party said this would help reverse the "economic decay" of the UK's town centres.

Mr Corbyn said: "Boarded up shops are a symptom of economic decay under the Conservatives and a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered. Once thriving high streets are becoming ghost streets.

"Labour has a radical plan to revive Britain's struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street, with thousands of new businesses and projects getting the chance to fulfil their potential."

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne said: "Under this Government, our high streets have suffered a retail apocalypse.

"High street closures are at a historic high, leaving too many of our once thriving towns abandoned and awash with boarded up shop fronts.

"Labour's radical plan will turn around the mess that the Tories have created and will give local authorities the power to make our high streets the pride of our communities that they once were."

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of shopworkers' trade union Usdaw, said: "Usdaw is promoting an industrial strategy to tackle the retail crisis, but we remain disappointed that the Government still hasn't engaged with us.

"It is crucial that local authorities play a full role in reviving their own high streets, something we are calling for, so we very much welcome Labour's commitment to empower councils."

But local growth minister Jake Berry said: "Jeremy Corbyn would wreck the economy, tax small businesses and scare off the investment needed to help our high streets, meaning more boarded-up shops and fewer jobs.

"We will deliver Brexit by October 31 so that we can get on with levelling up opportunities across our country and breathe new life into high streets and town centres."

The Labour leader visited a musical project during his morning in the town Credit: ITV News