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Rishi Sunak has vowed to slash the number of empty shops on Britain’s high streets and crack down on graffiti and littering.
In his latest policy announcement, aimed at reviving his flagging bid for the premiership, the former chancellor also pledged to expand police powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in public spaces.
Under his plan to rejuvenate high streets, many of which are blighted by shuttered shops and derelict buildings, Mr Sunak would remove hurdles for those properties to be quickly converted into new businesses or cafes.
We should all take pride in our high streets so I will also crack down on anti-social behaviour, graffiti and littering
He would allow local authorities to double the fine for littering and graffiti and consider lowering the damage threshold for offenders to be jailed.
Mr Sunak would strengthen orders that allow police to disperse people behaving anti-socially, and extend the powers to apply to types of behaviour rather than just a location.
He would also seek to reduce regulations around farmers markets, make local authorities assess social value when considering the location of public services, and protect access to cash points.
Mr Sunak said: “I want to slash the number of empty shops by 2025 and make sure that they are turned into thriving local assets, supporting skills, local businesses, economies and creating jobs. They will be joined by vital public services – like police stations and job centres.
“I’ll also support covered markets and farmers markets, making it as easy as possible for them to trade on our high streets and sell their fantastic produce to local people.
“We should all take pride in our high streets so I will also crack down on anti-social behaviour, graffiti and littering – through extended police powers and increased fines.
“I have been clear that I have a plan to rebuild our economy; our high streets are a crucial part of that.”
— Ready 4 Rishi (@Ready4Rishi) July 30, 2022
Mr Sunak and his rival in the race for No 10, Liz Truss, have faced calls from a group of the UK’s biggest retailers to cut business rates.
The Retail Jobs Alliance – which includes Tesco, Greggs and Sainsbury’s – last week accused the candidates of failing to prioritise the high street as companies are being hammered by the so-called shops tax amid spiralling inflation.
CBI director general Tony Danker has also called for an urgent reform of the business rates system.
As chancellor, Mr Sunak provided business rates relief during the pandemic and oversaw a review into the property tax, but no radical reform followed.
Ms Truss has signalled she would overhaul business rates if she becomes prime minister.