This is an opinion piece from Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Our high streets are at the heart of our local communities.

They’re places where people can support local businesses and do their shopping and banking. Places to enjoy meeting friends and pass the time.

So they should be lively, vibrant streets that reflect the best of the local community, providing the services that people need and the livelihood that people deserve.

When I was in West Yorkshire a few months ago, for example, I had a pint at The Queens Arms, an 18th Century pub in Horsforth that had been part of the community for 200 years, after having dinner at La Bistro, a family-run restaurant that took great pride in their food and their staff.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: La Bistro in HorsforthLa Bistro in Horsforth (Image: Google Maps)

That’s exactly what our high streets should be. A source of pride and community, as well as a link to our history. Not to simply indulge in nostalgia, but to drive our local economies. But after 14 years of chaos and economic turmoil, they’ve become the frontline of Tory decline.

Businesses boarded up, independent shops forced to close, and community assets like banks, pharmacies and post offices disappearing.

Since 2022, 385 towns have seen their last bank branch close, or announce it will be closing imminently.

Take the Natwest in Shipley for example. Despite fierce campaigning led by the Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Anna Dixon, the branch closed last year.

Older people, non-digital users and local businesses were left in the lurch.

Labour has a plan to roll out banking hubs across the country, so every community has access to face-to-face banking.

This will boost footfall in our high streets, supporting local businesses and making sure no one gets left behind.

Because my Labour party is determined to work with local communities to breathe life back into our high streets.

That starts with tackling the anti-social behaviour and shoplifting which makes people feel unsafe on our streets.

So we’ll put 13,000 more bobbies back on the beat, visible in your community.

And we’ll scrap the Tory rule that shoplifters who steal goods worth less than £200 do not need to attend court.

Because shop workers deserve to feel safe, and thieves need to know that crime has consequences.

We’ll support high street businesses too. Labour understands the business landscape has changed. We’ll replace business rates with a new system that levels the playing field between our high streets and online giants.

After years of talk from the Conservatives, we will put an end to late payments, so local businesses don’t have to wait to be paid by big clients.

Finally, Labour will give communities the ‘right to buy’ beloved community assets to revamp high streets and end the blight of empty premises.

We’d build on the fantastic work already happening in places like Wilsden, where the local post office was saved and is now run by the community.

West Yorkshire is home to some of the most beautiful streets in our country and hard-working, dedicated people who love their communities.

They deserve a government that backs their ambition. And I know that so much work is already happening, in places like Bingley, where independent shops and market traders are working together to increase footfall and make the most of Bradford 2025.

A Labour government will always support local communities, empower local businesses and champion local people.

This election year, there is a chance to vote for change. It is a chance to put an end to the chaos of the last 14 years and vote for a positive new direction of our country. For growth in all parts of the country, cheaper bills, better opportunities, safer streets and an NHS back on its feet and fit for the future.

Together, let’s save British high streets, restore pride in our communities, and get Britain’s future back.