Our nation’s high streets have continued to hit the headlines this summer. During the parliamentary recess I have been working with my Shadow Communities and Local Government colleagues as we look to bring forward more policies that will help to address the growing problems facing our high streets and ensure that town centres stay at the heart of our communities.
Over the past 18 months I have been working with local councils, businesses, organisations and communities to better understand the problems they are facing and the issues that matter to them. One issue that is raised frequently is the proliferation of payday lenders and betting shops. These types of businesses, in large numbers, not only have worrying social outcomes but can drives customers away from the high street and into new shopping centres.
Labour has set out how we would change the planning laws to give local communities more power to restrict the number of payday lenders on our high streets whilst encouraging diversification in other areas. We want to give councils new powers to help people to shape their own high streets, so that local people and communities can have a say about which type of shops, services and entertainment they want to see and what they need less of. This will enable each community to come up with a unique vision for the high streets and town centres that will keep people coming back despite the rise of internet shopping and out of town malls.
At the same time other colleagues are looking at how else we can minimise the impact that payday lenders have on peoples’ lives. We are looking at capping inflation rates and a code of conduct which would crack down on irresponsible lending and practices.
This is just one small areas of Labour’s policy development looking at how we could make a difference to peoples’ everyday lives if we are elected in 2015. With the General Election less than two years away, Labour is working hard to put together an effective plan and Labour’s ongoing policy review continues to shape and develop our manifesto for 2015. Labour’s Shadow Cabinet team have been engaging with party members, key stakeholders and the public to see how we can create a fairer society and build an economy that supports the interests of working people.
Figures yesterday (13/8) confirmed that the Government’s cost of living crisis is set to continue as prices rise faster than wages yet again. The Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband MP, has continually called upon the Government to take action to help low and middle incomes families across the country, and I will continue to the press the Lib Dem/Tory Government on this when parliament reconvenes in September. It more important now, than ever, that we have a Government which looks out for the interests of hard working people.
Away from Westminster this has been a great summer for Durham!
The excellent Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the country. I would like to encourage any of you who haven’t already visited the exhibition to do so before it finishes on 30th September. Last week also saw Durham County Cricket Club host its first ever Ashes Test Match. The match was very well attended and I am pleased that so many local supporters were able to enjoy this historic occasion.