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THE government is facing calls to launch a “radical” recovery programme to rescue Britain’s ailing high streets as the Arcadia Group faces collapse.
The retail giant, which includes Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, is set to go into administration today, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.
Unite said today that the news is “another bitter blow” for the country’s retail sector which was already facing a rapid decline prior to the pandemic due to online competitors.
“The decline of the UK’s high streets has been happening for some years, but the onset of the pandemic and two national lockdowns has accelerated this trend,” Unite regional officer Debbie McSweeney said.
“We call on the government to redouble its efforts to formulate a radical post-Covid-19 blueprint to revive the country’s ailing town centres and high streets.
“Such a strategy is desperately needed as high streets underpin the social fabric of our communities.”
The BBC reported that the Arcadia Group, headed by multimillionaire retail tycoon Sir Philip Green, does not expect a last-minute rescue deal.
Earlier there had been speculation that Fraser Group’s Mike Ashley had offered a £50 million loan to the company, but this was dismissed by a source from Arcadia Group, the BBC said.
Concerns have also been raised about the prospect of a £350 million hole in the company’s pension fund.
Work and pensions committee chairman Stephen Timms has called on Mr Green and his wife, Christina, who together are worth £950m, to plug the gap.
Shop workers’ union Usdaw is seeking urgent talks with Arcadia.
Usdaw national officer Dave Gill said that its members have been “devastated” by the news just weeks before Christmas, and also demanded a recovery plan.
“What retail needs is a tripartite approach of unions, employers and government working together to develop a recovery plan,” he said. “We have long called for an industrial strategy for retail to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency.”
The union is urging the government to “level the paying field” on taxation between online and the high street, reform business rates and give funding to local councils to invest in the high street.
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