Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praises 'spirit of Ipswich' in tour of town
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has paid tribute to the “spirit of Ipswich” during the Covid-19 crisis, and outlined his vision for helping the town centre thrive.
Sir Keir was chatting to businesses in St Nicholas Street and St Peter’s Street on Thursday afternoon as part of a two day visit to the town that also encompassed visits to walking football, cafes, a mum and toddler group, bingo and the Royal Mail.
Chatting to the likes of K Bar, The Italian Short Shop and Brides of St Peters, Sir Keir spoke about his ideas to help the town centre bounce back, as well as understanding what support Ipswich businesses wanted to see.
He said: “This is devoting time to talk to people, and here on the high street I have talked to a number of businesses about how they survived during the pandemic.
"Lots of them are glad to be back open, they have really struggled, and what they desperately need now is a little bit more support, restrictions to finally come off and to get people back into the high street so their business can pick up.
“There are incredible stories - one of the stories I heard is the young man we met who lost his job at the beginning of the pandemic, started selling bread on Instagram and is now running a restaurant – that is the spirit of Ipswich if anything is, so it’s been fantastic to meet him.”
Sir Keir said the feedback from firms had been “a bit of support, and making sure the high street thrives is a big big message to take away from here”.
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Among his plans were for an “urgent review” of business rates to help address the imbalance of high street retailers competing with online firms, more powers for councils to fill unoccupied buildings with local firms or short-term leases, and additional funds to help businesses through.
He praised the “fantastic” St Nicholas Street/St Peter’s Street parade and added: “The high street is about where you live, it is your place, and people want to come into the high street.
“There have been lots of changes over recent years – particularly in the pandemic – so we need a really active plan to make sure the high street works, and give people a reason to come into the high street.
“As I walk around here, the businesses and people are proud of this, and a good thing too.”