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
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today claimed George Osborne’s fifth budget would only widen the north-south divide.
She believes Osborne’s statement demonstrated the Coalition Government is “out of touch” with people in the constituency.
She said: “He tried to say that the economy is turning around, but households in South Shields who have seen their wages fall while prices rise month after month will see right through him.
“It’s clear whose side the Chancellor is on. Wages in London’s banking sector are rising nearly five times faster than the national average, and even then he won’t rule out tax cuts for the top earners. Meanwhile, those on low incomes are continuing to see their living standards fall.”
Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, labelled the budget a “gimmick”.
He said: “The budget was classic ‘smoke and mirrors’, full of pre-election gimmicks. They announced that they would cut inheritance tax for emergency service workers killed in duty – but this only applies to those leaving more than £325,000, so it is difficult to calculate how many would actually benefit.”
Coun Malcolm said new support to build 200,000 new homes was “simply nowhere near enough to resolve the housing crisis facing this country”.
The budget received a more positive response from a senior member of the borough’s business community.
Julie Lightfoot, managing director of South Shields-based Solar Solve Ltd, said: “As a local family-owned business who exports 85 per cent of our turnover, it’s encouraging that the Government is supporting British manufacturers by introducing a £7bn package to cut energy bills
“Although we aren’t an intensive energy user, every little saving helps, although we’ll have to wait and see what the actual savings will be. However, it’s nice to know that half of the firms that will benefit the most by cuts in manufacturing costs are in the north of England.”
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said: “This is a government that has pushed down living standards to such an extent it has left working people £1,600 a year worse off.
“Osborne and the Tories only stand up for the privileged few.”
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “The Chancellor should have had the courage of his convictions and stood by his support of a £7 minimum wage. Moving to the Living Wage is the best way to raise tax revenue and put money into people’s pockets. It would boost consumer confidence and increase spending in local shops and businesses.”
North East Chamber of Commerce policy director Ross Smith said: “This was a sensible budget, and the conditions within which North East businesses can continue their strong contribution to UK growth have been strengthened by these announcements.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 21 March 2014
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has hit back at the “boring Tory boys” after they mocked her North-East accent.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said that Conservative party members who are claimed to have mocked her accent don’t bother her – because it means they have nothing else to criticise her for.
The town’s MP also welcomed the support she received from constituents over the row which has broken out over claims by Durham North West MP Pat Glass, that Tory MPs target female opposition members.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “It is annoying sometimes, but I never let it silence me. I just think ‘grow up’.
“I feel sorry for them really, because I think if that’s all you have to say about me, then I must be doing a good job.”
Fellow Labour MP Mrs Glass said that abuse in the “Gladatorial” atmosphere at Westminster is worse for female MPs with strong accents, and likened Mrs Lewell-Buck’s to that of fellow South Shields native, comedian Sarah Millican.
She said: “I know Emma has a lovely strong accent, but they have really gone for her in the chamber over that,” she said.
“She has that Sarah Millican accent and they shout at her because of it.
“There are big differences between my accent and hers, but generally, if you are a woman, they target you and if you have a northern accent, they go for you.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck, who grew up in a family of shipyard workers, and was a social worker before gaining her seat in Parliament, said: “I want my constituents to hear and see someone who looks and sounds like them.
“I want them to understand what I am saying, because I am in House representing them.
“I don’t care if the posh boys in the Tory party don’t understand me.
“They do, sometimes, get themselves over-excited and shout things, but I just think it’s not like they’re going to launch themselves across the commons and punch me.”
She added: “I’ve always said that to be an effective MP you have to talk to your constituents, that’s a huge part of the job.
“I’m always out and about talking to them, and use the information they give me when I’m in the House of Commons representing them.
“For me, the most nerve-wracking thing is that people put me there, and I don’t ever want people to think that they put me there and I have let them down.”
Mrs Glass said it was not just older Tory MPs who were guilty of barracking Labour women.
She said: “What I found is if a woman gets to speak, particularly women with an accent, then there is orchestrated barracking.
“You don’t get to see it on television because the camera is fixed on the person who is speaking and not on the orchestrated response.
“I get the impression they think women who are Northerners should not be there.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck, added: “It doesn’t really surprise me that people in South Shields have been supportive about my accent.
“So far, I haven’t had anyone say ‘you have let us down,’ or ‘we didn’t like what you said’.
“In the main, a lot of people have been really supportive.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 21 Feb 2014