South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has called on the Government to cut business rates to give South Shields’ struggling shops a chance to survive.
The plight of her constituency’s beleaguered shopping centre was raised in Parliament last night in an adjournment debate with High Street minister Brandon Lewis.
The move came amid concern for the retail viability of the town centre, following the recent departure of such big-name outlets as Marks & Spencer and Mothercare.
To prepare for the debate, Mrs Lewell-Buck paid a fact-finding visit to King Street to find out what the main concerns of traders are.
She said that the clear message was an alarming decline in both income and customer numbers in the last two years – and the high cost of business rates.
She said: “Shops in King Street have reported that footfall is down in the last two or three years, at the same time as incomes are being squeezed and families have less money to spend.”
Last night, Ms Lewell-Buck called on the minister to take more action to cut business rates.
“One in 10 businesses now spends more on business rates than rent. Rates have risen by an average of £1,500 under the coalition.
“The Government also delayed the revaluation of business rates, which many firms have said means business owners in smaller towns are paying unfairly high levels compared to those in London and the South East.
“The Government relaxed planning rules in a way that has made it easier for betting shops and payday lenders to cluster on high streets, giving shoppers less incentive to visit.”
‘Trade is at its worst for 20 years’
Emma Lewell-Buck’s intervention has been welcomed by the traders she visited, including Lesley-Annz ladies’ fashion shop in the Market Place and Premier Furnishings and Carpets in King Street.
Michael Blake, owner of Premier Furnishings, has revealed he pays a whopping £600 a week in rates – twice as much as he pays in rent.
And in the last four years he has seen profits fall from up to £12,000 a week to between £700 to £2,000 a week.
He said: “I do appreciate the fact that she made the effort to come and see us and I hope this achieves something.
“We’re really suffering at the hands of competition from internet shopping, and parking is also a big issue.
“I have people in here who say after 10 minutes that they have to dash – because their car is on a meter. Shoppers can’t relax.”
Lesley Dawson, owner of Lesley-Annz fashions, said: “Just take a look around. It is shocking. There’s no shops. There’s nothing.
“I have been in the trade 20 years and this is the worst I have known it.
“We have lost so much footfall since Wouldhave House and Franchis cafe were demolished. We know there’s a new library to be built on the site, but that’s two years away. That’s a long time.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 27 June 2014
Former Tory MP Edwina Currie, has once again caused fury after criticising the work of food banks, arguing that they end up making people poorer and put local shops out of business.
Writing for The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, she claims that the Trussell Trust is “having a field day”, as they do they not own a “single food bank” preferring to “merely advise” other organisations – the Trussell Trust operates over 400 food banks nationwide – citing the “170 per cent increase in people using food banks” in the previous 12 months.
Edwina Currie argues that “anyone with their wits about them can grasp” that the more food banks there are supplying free food, the more “takers” they will have queuing at the door.
> After all, that’s the world as it appears to Tory MPs (even ex- ones). Grab anything that’s going – expenses anyone ? Here, take as much as you can carry…
In addition, she claims that as the use of food banks is equated to a rise in poverty, “well-meaning groups” are using the data as a stick to “beat the government” with. However, in their bid to “do something to help” they “may be perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place”.
> Presumably by “ perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place” she means by helping people to stay alive. If they were allowed to starve to death, they wouldn’t need food, would they ?
In her opinion there are three categories of people who use food banks:
1. People with long-term issues, such as addiction, alcoholism and mental illness
This category will struggle whether there was prosperity or recession she says, adding that services for them are frequently atrocious, with long waiting lists . Rather than acknowledge that it may be NHS funding that is the problem, she blames Councils saying she “despairs” when they divert money from health programmes to food banks, adding that it is a “dereliction of duty”. Using Manchester as an example, she say’s the £240,000 they have spent on food banks would be better spent on addiction clinics.
2. People with short-term problems, such as debt, or late benefit payments
Mrs Currie argues that despite food bank operators claiming it is for “emergencies only”, they continually help the “same faces” coming to claim their “free tin of soup”. She cites how Canada made the same claim “over 25 years ago” and that there is now a lot of “soul-searching about their role in maintaining people in a hand-to-mouth existence instead of confronting failure and helping them change course”.
> Perhaps those “same faces” are people who’ve been given long term sanctions as a reult of government policy ?
3. People who are not poor
Once more, Mrs Currie claims “benefits can be substantial”, arguing that this category of people make a deliberate choice to stay on benefits in order to get the “free food”.
> Really ? These will presumably be the same people who have wide-screen TV’s, foreign holidays and keep the pub trade going almost single-handidly. Strangely, I’ve never actually met one of them in real life…I’d love to find out their secrets 🙂 File under : urban myth, I think.
For Mrs Currie, the Government should “tackle this perverse incentive”. However this is easier said than done as the “kindly” food bank operators rarely have resources to visit their users homes. She believes – like herself – they would be “incensed” at the “well-fed dogs, the obligatory wide-screen TVs (aha !), the satellite dishes, the manicures and mobiles – and the car parked outside” adding “Desperate? No, not all of them”.
> So she’s advocating a means test ? No free food until you’ve sold everything you own.
For her, food banks and the free food they give, are supporting a “black economy” and pauperising those they seek to help, comparing their actions with that of giving money to ‘homeless’ beggars on the streets of London; saying it encourages “more of what it seeks to relieve”. Furthermore, she continues by saying food banks are having a “pernicious effect” on the local economy. She claims the reason why some Liverpool streets – where she grew up – have betting shops and pawnbrokers only, is because there is no need for a food store “if enough local residents can get their groceries for nothing. Adding that the absence or indeed closure of a food store “affects everyone, including those who don’t qualify for the food bank”.
These latest controversial comments come just one week after Trussell Trust Foodbank Network manager for Northern England – Anne Danks, “condemned” Mrs Currie’s claims that families were using food banks as they spent their cash on “tattoos and big screen televisions instead of food”.
She added: “Edwina Currie’s comments are just a ridiculous stereotyping of people who come to the food bank and of the people who live in poverty, and things like the Benefits Street programme reinforce the attitude of people like Edwina Currie who actually have no idea of what food banks do. It’s my job to help people realise food banks are not places used by ‘wasters’ and ‘scroungers’. The reality is our users are simply people who don’t earn enough because food and fuel prices have skyrocketed.”
Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, Rob Flello said he was ‘incensed’ following a comment by Edwina Currie that she could not see how emergency food aid would provide a long-term solution.
Rob Flello said: “Mrs Currie’s remarks are outrageous. I find it astonishing that a former health minister who claims to have her finger on the pulse should express such ill-informed views that are completely divorced from reality”.
He added: “I invite Mrs Currie to spend a day with me in the Potteries talking to people who run and use food banks. Only then may she realise how out of touch she really is.”
> Another attempt to put the blame for poverty squarely on the poor, unemployment on the unemployed, disability on the disabled… it’s amazing that anyone still falls for this nonsense.
Source – Welfare News Service 29 Jan 2014
Old Tory policies die hard – or perhaps they (like Labour, LibDems, UKIP, etc) just dont have the depth of imagination to think up new innovative ones.
Whatever, another Thatcherite policy rears its ugly head again. All the way from the days when they seriously considered cutting cities like Liverpoool adrift to die, comes a reprise of Norman Tebbit’s “on yer bike” advice.
An article in The Economist titled Some towns cannot be preserved. Save their inhabitants instead informs us that –
“Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hartlepool, Hull and many others were in trouble even before the financial crisis. These days their unemployment rates are roughly double the national average, and talented young people are draining away. Their high streets are thick with betting shops and payday lenders, if they are not empty.
“Under the last Labour government these towns were propped up on piles of public money. Some built museums and arts centres in an attempt to draw tourists, though this rarely worked. All became dependent on welfare.
“But there is little money for grand projects these days. And cuts to welfare, enacted by the Conservative-led coalition government in an attempt to balance the books, are falling brutally there. In Hartlepool the cuts amount to £712 for every working-age person. In Guildford, a middle-class commuter town south of London, they add up to just £263.”
So, nothing we didn’t already know. Can you guess what the remedy is going to be ?
“Governments should not try to rescue failing towns. Instead, they should support the people who live in them.
That means helping them to commute or move to places where there are jobs—and giving them the skills to get those jobs.”
Ok, right – so that means we all have to uproot and head for the South East ? And, if/when we manage to scrabble to the top of the heap and win the coveted prize of a minimum wage service industry job, where are we going to live ? Some London boroughs are already enacting what amounts to economic cleansing of the poor when it comes to housing.
Still, perhaps we’ll see the esthablishment of squatter camps outside the city limits, from where those with jobs can be bussed in every day to labour for their pennies.
Actually, the article may have been thinking along similar lines – “…new communities can be created in growing suburbs fringing successful cities. It has happened before.”
It certainly has. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Finally, I’d like to quote one of the comments published in response to the article, which I think succinctly sums up the problems that the piece’s author evidently failed to forsee –
“The obvious consequence of this article is that you support the people by moving them from “dead” areas to “live” areas like, er, London and the Greater South East. Obviously in leaving a dead area you will get very little for your house (after all it is being effectively abandoned), so you will have to be subsidised in the South – or live on the streets – something I don’t think the locals in London like.
Then of course the problem is London
– The motorways are clogged (despite having more lanes than anywhere else in the country),
– the railways are apparently a hell hole (despite having better rolling stock than the rail-buses we still have where I live and despite getting the Crossrail investment and tube extensions),
– the airports are apparently even worse (despite or possibly because of a hogging of international connections)
– Housing is a nightmare – made worse apparently by immigrants (you wait until the Northerners arrive!)
– Key workers are not available (probably because they cannot afford to live in central London and cannot afford to travel into London)
– There are water shortages (which will probably get worse when the people from Hartlepool, Burnley, Hull Middlesbrough et al arrive)
Actually being unemployed and living on the Durham coast sounds like quite a good life in comparison – and will probably cost the exchequer less than solving all the additional problems London would have if you moved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from “dead” areas to London.”
Economist, 12 Oct 2013 http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21587790-city-sicker