THERE is no doubt that the high street is in trouble, and, on a visit to Yarm, Labour has unveiled an imaginative package of measures that could well help.

A reform of the business rate system has long been called for by business owners, and the average town centre pub or café will benefit from a £2,600-a-year reduction which will be recouped from a digital services tax on businesses like Amazon, a sensible rebalancing.

Plans for banking hubs to replace closing branches also address a real need, and empty shop orders may address the air of dereliction in many town centres.

And who doesn’t want to see more bobbies on the beat? Labour says these more visible police will address shoplifting and anti-social behaviour, although we should also note that the Bill that the Stockton South Conservative MP Matt Vickers has pushed through is also valuable in protecting shopworkers.

High streets are crucial to our sense of identity and our feelings of local pride, and they cannot be allowed to decay. But equally, the reason they are decaying is that we – the people who want them saved – are increasingly shopping elsewhere. Plans for the high street must include shrinking its size and enticing more residential conversions – surely better than building more houses on greenfields.

So perhaps the most interesting aspect of the top level visit by the shadow Chancellor, Home Secretary and deputy leader was that it was to Yarm – a high street not usually considered to be troubled, unlike its neighbour in Stockton. Yarm should be a true Tory town. If Labour is confident enough to parade its wares there, it could be a real sign of the changing times in our towns.