Voters call for post-Brexit action to help high streets

Voters in deprived areas want to see more vibrant local economies and thriving local high streets after Brexit, according to a new report.

The report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation examines post-Brexit priorities for low-income voters in deprived areas and follows a series of workshops in nine towns and cities around the country.

The majority of people questioned said they want to see their areas receive their ‘fair share’ of investment from government and business, so they have the opportunity to thrive.  

And voters’ economic priorities were for more vibrant local economies and high streets; better paid and more secure work that boosts their living standards; and opportunities to improve their skills and find good apprenticeships.  

The low-income voters we spoke to expressed frustration at the state of the local labour market, with low pay and a lack of security coming to the fore,’ the report states.

‘An obvious and simple solution to many participants was to ensure that the minimum wage covers the ever-increasing cost of living.’

The workshops also found that work insecurity and zero-hours contracts with big issues, with some calling for them to be banned completely.

A lack of affordable public transport and childcare, and a lack of well-paid part-time jobs, were also seen as limiting factors that prevented people from earning a decent living. Workshop participants wanted to see a stronger local public transport system and more generous childcare, especially for people with younger children.

But the biggest barrier to economic security was the lack of job opportunities in their own areas, according to the report.

People in overshadowed and towns and cities said there needed to be incentives for firms offering good jobs to locate in their area.

Many participants saw the state of local high streets as a key indicator of how well a local economy was performing.

There was significant concern about the number of empty shops and a strong desire to put them to good use as community spaces, housing or spaces for start-up businesses, if not as shops.

Several participants felt frustrated that their communities were not given the opportunity to influence or lead these changes.

The report comes just days after Boris Johnson said his new administration will launch a £3.6bn fund to support 100 struggling towns around the country.

Mr Johnson said his new government will bring forward plans for UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is due to replace EU regeneration cash after Brexit.

‘Brexit has monopolised political and policy debate, leaving little room for domestic issues,’ the report states.

‘The focus should be on rebalancing the economy, making sure work pays, supporting local economies and high streets so they can be vibrant and ensuring people have the skills to make the most of opportunities in their area.’

The associate director from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), Frances Jones commented: ‘This report is a powerful reminder that our economic model is failing people and places. At a local level, there is understandable anger that the wealth generated by workers and small businesses in our towns and cities does not flow back to them, but is all too often extracted by distant shareholders.

‘Traditional economic development practice and developer-led regeneration has little to offer in response to these challenges, focusing instead on generating contributions to GDP.  Instead a more meaningful response to the issues so powerfully articulated in this report is required.  We need to rebuild the connection between the people and the places that create wealth and those who benefit from it. At CLES we have developed community wealth building as a new people-centred approach to local economic development – redirecting wealth out of the hands of distant shareholders and back to the people who created it. We hope this report gives new impetus for places and organisations to join the growing number applying this approach to transform their local economies.’

Photo Credit – Romtomtom


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top