Tories hit back at Labour pledges on shoplifting following Sir Keir Starmer's Blackpool speech

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The Conservatives say they are already cracking down on shoplifting

The Conservatives have hit back at Labour after Sir Keir Starmer used a speech in Blackpool to highlight his party's plans to crackdown on anti-social behaviour and attacks on shopworkers.

The Labour leader visited the resort on Tuesday ahead of tomorrow's Blackpool South by-election, and addressed the annual conference of retail trade union Usdaw being held at the Winter Gardens.

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Sir Keir Starmer addressing the Usdaw conference in BlackpoolSir Keir Starmer addressing the Usdaw conference in Blackpool
Sir Keir Starmer addressing the Usdaw conference in Blackpool | Local Democracy Reporting Service

He pledged to reverse the so-called 'shoplifters charter' by which the police rarely investigate if the value of items stolen is less than £200. Labour says figures from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) show shoplifting has increased by 48 per cent in recent times in Blackpool.

Sir Keir told the conference: "Today I am putting shoplifters on notice. You might get away with this under a weak Tory government. But if Labour takes power, we won’t stand by while crime takes over our streets.”

But Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire Chris Philp said the government was tackling shoplifting with offenders set to face tougher punishments.

Chris Philp  (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)Chris Philp  (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Chris Philp (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

He said: "Labour continue to reheat their tired and toothless tweak around the edges, while the facts show the reality is those living in Labour-run areas are 37 per cent more likely to be a victim of crime than those living in Conservative-run areas and 22 per cent more likely to be a victim of shoplifting.

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“This month, Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives announced that serial or abusive shoplifters will face tougher punishments and we are making assault of a retail worker a standalone criminal offence. We have asked the police to take a zero-tolerance approach to shoplifting, and theft under the value of £200 is a criminal offence which can result in a custodial sentence of up to six months.”

Labour says since theft of goods below £200 was made a summary-only offence meaning it is considered low-level offending, the police have not prioritised enforcement of shoplifting.

Candidates in the Blackpool South by-election are: Stephen Black (Independent); Mark Butcher (Reform UK); Andrew Cregan (Lib Dems); Howling Laud Hope (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party); David Jones (Conservative);  Kim Knight (Alliance for Democracy and Freedom);   Damon Sharp (New Open Non-Political Organised Leadership); Ben Thomas (Green Party); Chris Webb (Labour)