In an Opposition Day Debate yesterday (16th October 2013) local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, supported a motion against the Government’s changes which deny communities the right to shape their high streets and stop payday lending and betting shops from taking over.
He also used the debate to highlight the impact on our high streets of out of town shopping and the growing use of online retailers.
“Our local town centre should be at the heart of our community but too many shops in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are lying empty and in too many places they are being forced out by more and more payday lenders and betting shops.
“There are many reasons why our high streets are struggling but two of the major factors are out-of-town shopping centres and online retailers. Neither threat can be engineered out of existence. They are a fact of life, enshrined in past planning decision and the advance of new technology.
“Therefore, if our local high streets are to survive as proper retail outlets, and not just as monolithic parades of hot food takeaways, betting shops and payday loan stores, some imaginative thinking is required. We need to be both flexible with our built high street environment, and also have the support mechanisms in place to ensure that those High Streets are allowed to remain competitive.
“I want to see real powers given to local people to stand up for their high street and ensure that it is somewhere that they and their neighbours want to shop and spend time.
“The Government is doing the opposite of what Labour has been calling for by denying, rather than strengthening, the right of local people to have a say in the future of their high street. Unlike the Tories and Lib Dems, Labour is supporting our independent retailers, small businesses and high streets who are feeling the cost of living squeeze by pledging to cut businesses rates for small businesses in 2015 and freezing them the year after.”