South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is hoping to spark a debate in Parliament on the state of UK high streets – after admitting the decline of the town’s main shopping thoroughfare “breaks my heart”.
The MP has become alarmed at the number of retail outlets closing in King Street over recent months.
The decision by Marks and Spencer to exit the town after 80 years was a particular body blow.
However, other retailers have left or are about to leave, including Mothercare, Thorntons, Internacionale and Greggs restaurant.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I’m looking in the very near future either to get a debate in Parliament, or if not, write to communities secretary Eric Pickles, about what the Government intends to do to support our high streets.
“It’s really sad that we have got shops leaving King Street. People automatically say ‘oh, it’s the council’s fault’, but the council does not set business rates and they don’t own those buildings.
“It’s the Government that sets business rates and Labour’s got plans to cut and freeze business rates, and for an energy price freeze to help small business.
“I don’t understand why the Government won’t implement those things because it would actually see a revival of our high streets. I was in King Street recently and it was really sad to see. I used to go there when I was a kid. Each time I see that another shop is closing, it breaks my heart. I think the Government needs to do something about this. They can’t just sit on their laurels.
“Of course, it’s not something which is particular to South Shields, it is happening across the country. I’m going to try and get a debate in Parliament.
“If I can’t get that I will at least write to Eric Pickles and I will give the Gazette a copy of his response, so people can see that I’m at least trying to do something.”
Town Hall bosses have no control on either the setting of rents in the street or on rate levels, which are set by central Government and merely collected locally by the council.
A council spokesman told the Gazette recently that business rates are a “major bone of contention” – but explained that they are set by Government, not the council.
South Tyneside gets to keep 50 per cent of the business rates it collects in the borough, with the other 50 per cent going into a central Government pot.
Out of that, a proportion is redistributed to the council to recognise the local authority’s financial needs.
The last revaluation of properties for rating purposes was carried out in 2008, the next being proposed for 2017.
The council itself pays business rates for its offices, schools, day centres and all other buildings it occupies, in exactly the same way as other private sector occupiers.
Source – Shields Gazette 30 April 2014
Fraud squad detectives are probing claims jobseekers were conned out of cash in an elaborate ‘Hustle-style’ scam from luxury city centre offices.
Applicants were interviewed by ‘Options 4 Families’ at a rented office in the Manchester One building on Portland Street, but heard nothing from the company after paying £65 for background checks upon offers of employment.
The £18.5k-a-year ‘trainee child counsellor’ jobs were even advertised on the government’s own Universal Jobmatch website – but the Department of Work and Pensions has since removed the adverts and has sent a warning to those who applied.
> Maybe they want to take a look at all those non-jobs that clutter up UJ – leaflet distributors, etc. But I suppose if they did, they’d have virtually nothing left – few respectable advertisers use UJ.
Other candidates are understood to have left their current jobs after being offered positions.
Burnley-based businessman John Sothern, 44, interviewed candidates at the start of January and is understood to have offered at least 12 people roles based in Manchester city centre following two days of interviews.
He is now at the centre of a police investigation – but denies any wrongdoing.
Greater Manchester Police were called to Manchester One by an interviewee on January 8 but Mr Sothern had fled the premises by the time officers arrived.
The M.E.N has spoken to jobseekers who were told they would begin their roles – which would increase to £34k-a-year after a training period – at the start of February but have still not heard from the company six weeks after transferring money.
Lancashire Police confirmed allegations regarding the Manchester-based jobs were passed to them by national agency Action Fraud on January 28.
It is understood a fraud probe into Mr Sothern’s activities is currently examining around 70 alleged offences across the north west.
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm officers have received a report in relation to an allegation of fraud. An investigation has been launched and enquiries are on-going in relation to this matter at this time.”
A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The vast majority of those employers offer genuine roles for jobseekers to apply for – however we won’t hesitate to ban anyone who tries to break the rules and post fraudulent jobs. When possible, it can – and has – led to criminal prosecutions.”
Options 4 Families was dissolved as a limited company in 2010.
Matthew Bourton, 24, thought he’d finally ended his two-year search to find work when he was offered a ‘trainee child therapist’ job by Options 4 Families.
He applied through Universal Jobmatch and was interviewed just hours before police were called to the office on January 8.
Matthew, who has been out of work since leaving university, was offered the position the following day. He was then asked to provide a ‘refundable’ payment of £65.60 for a Disclosure and Barring Service background check to be carried out.
Six weeks later, he’s had no contact from the company.
Matthew, of Wigan Road, Leigh, said: “The job itself seemed too good to be true, but I’m so desperate to find work I was ready to believe everything I was being told. John Sothern was very friendly and charming. I gave my details for the bank transfer and that’s the last I’ve heard from them.
“I tried to get in touch with them but the number was a dead line. There was no mention of them on the internet apart from their own website and I came to the realisation that I’d been had. I feel taken advantage of and totally devastated.”
Businessman John Sothern insists job offers with Options 4 Families were genuine and he has done ‘nothing wrong’.
Mr Sothern is aware of a police investigation into the interview process at Manchester One but insists applicants will be given the jobs they were offered with Options 4 Families. He intends to contact candidates ‘within seven to 10 days’.
He said: “We’ve applied for funding with different organisations, including the Big Lottery Fund, and with private investors. As soon as we get that funding through, we’ll be in a position for people to start those jobs. We’ve had to put everything on hold but those people offered jobs will be getting e-mails – the jobs are still open. Background checks are standard industry practice and those people will get their money back.”
Source – Manchester Evening News, 03 Mar 2014
It’s the sort of headline you could take in several contrary ways…
The Lost Generation: Conservatives say their plan is working
… but in this case its a mission statement from Rebecca Harris, the Conservative party vice chairman for young people’s issues, so we may suspect it’s not humour or irony….
Even before Labour’s great recession hit in 2008 things were tough for young people. During the 13 years of Labour Government half a million people lost their jobs and youth unemployment rose by 45%. It’s a longstanding problem.
This isn’t good enough.
> You noticed ?
Jobs really do matter. Giving people the feeling of a wage in their pocket every month is the best way to help people plan for a secure future.
> Really ?
That’s why we have a long term plan to get the economy of Britain, and the North East, working again.
> Long term = “we may get around to the North East eventually. Say, 2050 ? But you’ll have to vote Tory first, of course.”
We are creating more jobs by backing small business and enterprise with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes. Already there are 13,000 more businesses in the North East than there were three years ago.
> Yeah ? But what are they ? One-person self-employed start-ups ? What’s more noticable is that are far more empty shops, offices and factory units than there were three years ago.
We’ve cut Labour’s jobs taxes to make it easier for those businesses to create jobs.
> And added a whole raft of new problems to make creating jobs look like too much hassle… and that’s before Universal Credit lurches onto the scene (if its wheels dont fall off first…)
That means more jobs for young people, as well as greater prosperity for the entire region.
> Why does it mean that ? Proof ?
Once young people find work they now get to keep more of their income as well. By raising the level at which people start to pay income tax we’ve taken 2.4m of the lowest earners out of tax altogether.
> No-ne is ever “out of tax” – there’s VAT for a start. And you’ve made them accountable for Council Tax and, in some cases, the Bedroom Tax too. Give with one hand, grab back with the other.
Ed Miliband used to claim that a million jobs would be lost under this Government – but in fact the private sector has created 1.6m new jobs. Our plan is working.
We’re also making reforms to schooling to increase young people’s skills. Under Labour, rampant grade inflation meant their GCSEs and A Levels did little to help them get a job.
> More GCSEs and A Levels do not equal an increase in skills. They don’t create jobs either.
We’re reforming exams so that young people gain an education that is actually worth something to employers.
> Er, dont you mean: “so that young people gain an education that is actually worth something to them“ ? No, you really dont, do you ?
At the same time we’ve created 1.5m new apprenticeships so that people can learn while they work.
By giving young people decent skills we can help them get jobs, and get jobs that pay well. It’s a long term plan for the future.
> A very, very long term plan. About 2050 ?
The signs are encouraging. There are 7,500 more young people off Job Seekers Allowance in the North East than a year ago. We’re committed to getting even more get off benefits and on to that important first step of adult life.
> Off JSA does not necesserily equal someone getting a job, as we all know too well.
The economic damage Labour did to the economy caused unforgivable harm to the life chances of young people. Even now they offer only short term gimmicks that would do more harm than good. Young people deserve better than that.
> Maybe if that old hag Thatcher hadn’t… oh, I see – you’re revising history here, it was Labour who killed off what was left of industry. Nothing to do with Thatcher at all.
Our long term economic plan is working and young people are working for a secure future once again. Let’s stick to the plan.
> I could suggest somewhere you might stick it…
Interestingly, the original article was illustrated with a photo of Smilin’ Dave Camoron getting down with a couple of apprentices in a factory… in, er, Oxford. Probably as far north as a Tory likes to go…
Source – Newcastle Journal 01 Feb 2014