The branches of Wilko that neighbour my constituency (in Dunstable and in Luton town centre) have provided affordable shopping, as well as employment, for people across our town, Many constituents will have seen the concerning reports of Wilko’s collapse – which could lead to thousands of job losses.
Today we’ve seen progress in talks between GMB Union
and auditors which could save employees’ futures. But this is not guaranteed.
I’ve written to the Secretary of State for Business and trade to ask that the government takes urgent action to protect our high streets:
I write to you with deep concern following the news that hundreds of Wilko stores will likely close. There are 400 Wilko stores across the UK, representing 12,500 jobs. For many years the branches of Wilko that neighbour my constituency (in Dunstable and in Luton town centre) have provided affordable shopping, as well as employment, for people across our town. Behind every one of these closures are workers who will lose their livelihoods. This is awful news for them and their families. The next few weeks will be crucial for these workers’ future, and in turn for their role within our economy during a cost-of-living crisis. I am therefore writing to ask the following urgent questions:
• What steps will you now take to ensure that the tens of thousands of Wilko staff, who could now be facing redundancy, will be supported into new employment?
• What are the government doing to ensure that proper, meaningful consultation is conducted by employers and administrators and that they are prevented from exploiting loopholes that allow for workers to be laid off without having complied with the full 45-day period as clearly stated under law?
• There is still the possibility that some stores may be bought, either as part of a package or individually. What options has the government considered to support the sale of Wilko stores and protect as many jobs as possible?
Sadly, shuttered up shops and struggling high streets have become the norm after 13 years of Conservative economic failure. Despite this, the Government has presented no ideas for our high streets.
Labour has a plan that will tackle the things holding firms back. We will scrap and replace the current system of business rates with a fully costed and funded system of business property taxation that levels the playing field so that our high streets can thrive; crack down on anti-social behaviour; and give councils powers to put an end to empty premises to bring shoppers back to the high street. Wilko is not the first example of this tragedy and, without the government matching the ambition of Labour’s plans, I fear it will not be the last.
I look forward to hearing from you at your nearest opportunity.
Sarah Owen MP
Member of Parliament for Luton North