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Foyle MLA Gary Middleton has said that potential job losses at Debenhams and the Arcadia Group brings home the practical reality of economic damage on the high street. Mr Middleton was speaking after securing an Urgent Oral question in the Assembly in relation to the retail chains.

The DUP MLA said,

"Debenhams and the stores within the Arcadia group are amongst the biggest and most recognisable brands in our high street.

Whilst no redundancies have been announced as yet, there are many workers across Northern Ireland and indeed the whole United Kingdom who are fearful about what the future holds. The impact will be felt not just within stores themselves, but also within shopping centres, including in my own home city, where stores like Debenhams are a major tenant and encourage footfall to other shops.

The threat of such job losses brings home the practical reality of economic damage to our high street. Those hit hardest will be young, female, part-time and lower paid workers. Those who are already struggling could be dealt a devastating blow and it sounds a dire warning for difficulties we will face in the wider economy as we move into 2021.

I am glad that the Economy Minister has said she will work with colleagues across the Executive and within Local Government to support our town and city centres wherever possible but there is also a huge role for Her Majesty’s Government. The Economy Minister has committed to engage with the Government and her announcement of a High Street Voucher scheme is one such measure that will bring some relief but it will require a united front to tackle the economic crisis which appears to be looming.