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    Labour to crackdown on ‘dodgy candy stores’ to legitimate high streets

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    Labour is calling on the government to support legitimate high street businesses and to crackdown on shell companies used to avoid paying bills.

    The party has pledged to crackdown on “dodgy” American-style candy stores that have been avoiding taxes. Their rise has come to symbolise the decline of the traditional high street, with more than 20 on London’s Oxford Street alone.

    According to Labour, the sweet shops are almost always run out of shell companies that have no assets with fabricated company directors and avoid paying business rates. Westminster City Council is chasing unpaid business rates of around £9 million from 26 shops on Oxford Street.

    Apart from lost revenue, these candy shops are also increasingly becoming hub of illegal good. According to a report in Huffington Post, £1 million of counterfeit and illegal goods has been seized by the council over the past 18 months, including unsafe vapes.

    Shadow Treasury minister James Murray said more needed to be done to encourage “legitimate businesses” to open, adding that there should be a “new shops bonus” that would offer a three-month business rates holiday to stores.

    Labour also said ID requirements for someone setting up a new company should be strengthened to help councils chase down businesses that do not pay their bills.

    “Millions of us will be heading to the shops in the coming days to take advantage of the Boxing Day sales. However, the sharp rise in dodgy candy stores has been blighting high streets and ripping off the taxpayer.

    “We are calling on the Government to work with councils, including Westminster City Council, to incentivise legitimate businesses to open-up on the high street – rather than these shell companies that avoid paying their bills and commit other offences.

    “In government, Labour would replace business rates with a new system, and we would use powers in the Economic Crime Act to crack down on rip-off businesses and make sure there are proper checks in place when companies are being set up,” Murray said.

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