A NORTH-EAST MP has added his voice to a national campaign aimed at reversing the decline in empty shops on the region's high streets.

Stockton South MP Dr Paul Williams is hoping the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) campaign will help reinvigorate high streets such as those in his constituency like Yarm and Thornaby.

Usdaw is calling for action to breathe life back into the high street, including economic measures to create a more level playing field between the high street and online retailing, a minimum wage of £10 per hour, tackling zero-hours and short-hours contracts, investment in skills and training, and Government action to protect jobs in the retail sector.

On Saturday Dr Williams met with USDAW members on Stockton High Street to join their campaign.

The union says hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in retail, yet the Government is doing "little to tackle the crisis on the high street and in our local communities".

Dr Williams said: "I represent many different kinds of areas like Yarm and Thornaby where the high street is the heart of the community. We’ve seen the loss of so many household names from our high streets and it feels like they are in constant decline. Local people want welcoming places where they can meet, shop and go about their business during the day.

“To survive, shops have contend with high business rates set by the Government, increasing rents, and competition with online retailer. Staff have to contend with low-wages and insecure work. The people who work in the businesses on our high streets deserve better, and evidence shows that if you pay people more they become more productive. That’s why I’m backing a £10 an hour minimum wage and more-secure contracts for staff.

“But this isn’t just about better pay. It is also about skills and training and it is about job security, guaranteed hours and shift patterns that fit with people’s lives.

“I’ll always work hard to put improving the areas that I represent first.”

For more information about the campaign, visit www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns.