AN East Lancashire peer has urged the government to do more to save small high street shops from a ‘disastrous situation’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lord Greaves, also a Pendle councillor for Colne’s Waterside ward, was speaking in a short Westminster debate about the potential impact on unemployment of closures of stores such as Debenhams and Arcadia's.

The Liberal Democrat told government minister Lord Callanan: “I am speaking from Colne, a smaller town in Lancashire, where most of the high street consists of small, independently owned shops, many of which are in a disastrous situation.

“We do not want to close down our high street; we want to keep it going and expand it. What are the government doing to make sure that these small shops, independently owned, will be able to survive and thrive after Covid?”

The junior business minister replied: “We have brought forward £81.5million from the £3.6billion towns funds to kickstart local investment projects of the exact kind that he refers to.”

Lord Greaves said afterwards: “I don’t know what help this is to our local towns such as Barnoldswick and Colne, but it’s peanuts anyway spread around the whole country. I fear that the big shops – the supermarkets and the like – are doing okay out of Covid. But many of the small businesses that form the heart of our towns are being forgotten about.

“The grants available to small businesses are inadequate, and many self-employed people are falling between the cracks. I shall continue to press ministers on these matters.”