Bishop Vincent Logan RIP

Protect Retail Jobs - Create a Level Playing Field

As Dundee Labour City Development spokesperson I am calling for support for Dundee City Centre and district shopping areas throughout the city and support for the retail sector in general.  A number of major retailers announced that they were closing including Debenhams and the Arcadia group.  I understand that more and more people are using online shopping but I am calling for a level playing field in terms of taxation and regulation.

I am proud to be a member of the shopworkers' trade union USDAW and they are absolutely right to call for an industrial strategy for retail.  This is an industry in crisis and needs to be supported.

I am also calling for tax justice.  No organisation operating in this country should be able to avoid paying tax in this country.

The number of retailers closing should concern us all.  If we want Dundee City Centre to be a vibrant place, then it does need to have shops.  I understand that the nature of the retail sector is changing and that there can be few of us who have not used online retailers especially during the pandemic.

If this level of closure and redundancies was being experienced in other industries then there would be demonstrations in the streets.  People would be calling for government action to protect the industry.  This should be the case in retail as well.

I want to protect Dundee's retail sector.  We need a vibrant city centre with a variety of shops to attract people to Dundee and to provide employment for people in the city.  Clearly, some of the difficulties for the retailers who are in trouble just now are of their own making and they should be held responsible for their own mismanagement, but there is a general need for a level playing field.

Government needs to look at the tax regime for retailers.  Bricks and mortar shops in city and town centres have to pay rates at a level not comparable with the rates paid by online businesses.  The main issue, however, is ongoing tax avoidance and offshoring by some online retailers.  Paying tax is a good thing.  It is part of being a member of a civilised society.  It pays for the services that we all need.  It is a disgrace that there are companies who are operating in our country, delivering to our homes who are not paying taxes in this country because they are 'based' elsewhere.  The UK Government needs to ensure that all companies are paying their fair share of tax through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore tax havens; we need a level playing field between online and high street retailers.

Councils should be able to invest in their shopping areas to protect and enhance jobs.  We need to look at what more Dundee City Council can do to make shopping in Dundee city centre attractive and to protect the local district shopping areas as well.

Problems in the retail sector have the potential to have a long-lasting impact on employment in Dundee and also on the vibrancy of the retail sector in the city.  We need to take this seriously and look to find ways which make it easy for people to shop local and protect local jobs here in Dundee and across the country.