Labour has urged against abandoning struggling British high streets as the party outlined proposals to revive town and city centres “battered” by the coronavirus crisis.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said a Labour government would give councils the power to take over the management of empty shops as part of a plan to kickstart the post-pandemic recovery in communities.

Under the proposals unveiled in a speech on Thursday, she suggested local authorities be given the power to repurpose commercial properties that have been vacant for at least 12 months to bring them back into use.

Ms Dodds also opposed rules that could allow shops to be sold off for conversion to housing without planning permission, branding it “catastrophic” for local communities.

She also criticised the Government for “concentrating power” in London with civil servant jobs, claiming that there had been a 6% rise in these roles in the capital while jobs had been lost in other regions in England.

In a speech to the Institute of Global Prosperity at the University College London ahead of next week’s Budget, Ms Dodds said: “Our high streets used to be that beating heart of our local communities and they can be so again.

“But they have been battered by this crisis and they were already struggling to begin with.”

The shadow chancellor said that almost 8,000 shops were lost from high streets in the first half of last year, with one in 10 shops in the UK sitting vacant by July.

She said this mattered not only for the jobs that high streets support, directly and also in the supply chain, but because high streets are a “central part” of how people feel about their community and local area.

“People’s spending and shopping habits have been changing for years and we are never going back to a world where Woolworths, Debenhams and House of Fraser stood side by side in huge retail units up and down the country,” she said.

“But nor does that mean we should just abandon our high streets to a sad, disorderly fate.

“If we act smartly and strategically we can recapture the hearts of our communities and make them part of a better, brighter, greener future.”

Ms Dodds said that “everyone should win” under the proposed “empty shops order”, which would see councils work with the owner of an empty shop to bring it back into use.

If that was not successful, the council would have the power to secure management rights, carry out works and then put the property into use – without the consent of the owner.

The authority would then be permitted to charge rent and, after recouping the cost of works, that rent would then pass to the owner.

Her speech urged action to ensure that communities can continue to access cash and banking services on high streets – the need for which has become “more urgent” with the pandemic.

She also called for the Government to use its review of business rates to ensure reforms help high street stores compete with online retailers.