FREE public WiFi would be provided in town centres across the UK under Labour plans to reverse the decline in the nation's high streets, the party has announced.

Proposals under a package of measures announced at the Labour conference in Liverpool also include ensuring access to cash by banning cash machine[ATM] charges and halting bank closures.

The proposals are part of a five-point plan to revive town centres and stem their decline following the difficulties faced by a string of major retailers.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, said: "Our high streets need saving from a slow and agonising death.

"As part of our plan to rebuild Britain and breathe life back into our communities, Labour will scrap ATM charges, deliver free WiFi to town centres, introduce a register of empty properties, provide free bus travel for under 25s and overhaul the broken business rates system which is hammering retail.

"Boarded-up shops and deserted high streets are a result of years of neglect and austerity. Our country needs to radically change course so our towns can thrive again," she told conference.

The high street has been battered this year by several high-profile retail administrations and store closure programmes.

House of Fraser, Maplin and Toys R Us have all gone bust, while New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare have shut stores.

Meanwhile, on the issue of cash machines, there have been widespread closures of ATMs with cuts to funding resulting in the loss of thousands of machines; rural areas and Scotland have been the worst affected.

Labour pointed out how the number of people who relied almost entirely on cash had risen to 2.7 million, up by 500,000 over the last two years.

Research by Which?, it said, had shown that the loss of free-to-use ATMs would leave one in 10 people struggling to make payments, forcing consumers out from local shops and services.

Labour analysis has found that in the last three years alone 100,000 jobs in the retail sector have been lost. British Retail Consortium research also shows that a fifth of British retailers are planning to cut the number of people they employ in the next three months.

Scottish Labour MP Ged Killen, who has been campaigning to maintain ATMs, said he welcomes his party’s commitment to ban ATM charges and ensure people could access their own cash for free.

“In Scotland, a free-to-use ATM is closing at a rate of one a day,” he declared.

“This means every day a there is one less place to take out money for the school lunches or one less place to withdraw money to pay in local shops,” noted the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP.

“No one should have to pay to access their own money. If any government is serious about economic development in our towns and high streets, they need to protect the financial infrastructure people and business rely on.”

Mr Killen added: “This policy shows that Labour is serious and is willing to be radical in government to reverse the decline of Britain’s high streets under the Tories”.