By Daniel Hunter

Retailers across the UK are asking local MPs to put helping high streets high on their to-do lists as we head into 2013.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is asking MPs, back in their constituencies now, to prioritise listening to local businesses and helping halt high street decline.

The call comes in the wake of figures showing the empty shops rate in town centres has reached a new high of 11.3 per cent, and a poll of MPs which shows that two-thirds believe high streets in their constituencies have deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.

The BRC is recommending that taking action against the rising cost of doing business in the UK is the number one thing that MPs should do to help high streets. It is asking them to join calls for the Government to freeze business rates, which are set to rise by 2.6 per cent in 2013.

Rates have already risen by over ten per cent in the last two years, adding over half a billion pounds to retailers' bills during tough trading conditions. The BRC warns that allowing another rise would do further damage to high streets and deter investment and job creation.

"MPs understand that high streets are focal points for communities and essential to local economies. But many high streets are facing a real endurance test in these challenging times, and rising operating costs are making matters worse," new British Retail Consortium Director General Helen Dickinson said.

"The Autumn Statement didn't include a pledge to freeze business rates next year, but there's still time for the Government to do the right thing. Another steep rise would pose a serious threat to vulnerable town centres and mean fewer jobs, especially for young people.

"Two-thirds of MPs have already told us that they support a rates freeze next year — I urge them to keep pushing for change if they want to breathe life back into our town centres and preserve and protect local businesses."

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