Empty shops on High Streets

The latest surveys are depressing. There are too many empty shops. It is part of the price of economic incompetence, part of the result of the huge boom and bust monetary policy created.

There are a couple of other trends going on as well. The advance of the internet means more items are bought online and less in shops. It is becoming more and more of battle to get into town centres and then to park, making more people opt to shop in out of town centres or on line.

Councils who feign concern should look to their own anti shopper policies. It is not easy shopping from a bus or train. The car is better, as you can put all the items in the boot and go more or less door to door. Too many Councils now run rip off parking regimes, charging too much and putting shoppers on edge for fear that their car will be impounded if they run over by a few minutes through delays at the tills. Some compound this by a stunning and expensive array of humps, bumps, chicanes, no through roads and other blocks on getting to the town in the first place. If Councils want more shoppers, they need to ease congestion and make it easier for shoppers in cars to get in. Councils usually make sure their senior employees can drive to work with reserved free car parking places.

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61 Comments

  1. Posted July 21, 2009 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    You might also add the cripplingly expensive business rates the poor shop keepers are forced to pay. If the internet alone does not kill the high street, the combined pressure of high taxes, difficult travel and cyber alternatives may well be its death-knell.

    And as well as destroying lots of jobs, the council would lose all that revenue. In no small part this explains the gap between source prices and sold prices. (I once knew a purchaser for a ladies fashion chain and the goods are sourced for between 50p and £1 and sold for anything between £20 and £90).

  2. Posted July 21, 2009 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Stevenage new town has suffered parking charges for a long time. Our council are now proposing to introduce charges in the old town. I hope that the author not get upset as I have sent the comment (with acknowledgement) to our local paper.

    Thanks

    David Stonebanks

  3. Posted July 21, 2009 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Insightful as always, and such an obvious point once it’s made. Councils use parking as an effective tax on shopping. As we all know the more you tax something, the less you get of it.

    Experience suggests that recent years have seen a boom in parking prices and fines. Is it really a surprise then that people choose to stay at home and shop online? My local in-town shopping mall has free parking on Sundays. And guess what? It is always busy on Sundays. I’m sure it is no coincidence.

  4. Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    My local town (Petersfield) offers an outstanding example of the myopic, not to mention hypocritical approach to their provision of car parking and its effect on the local economy.

    Staff employed in the high street, who after all are the ones who provide the services that attract people to the town in the first place are faced with two serious problems; the first being cost. At £2.40 for a four hour stay it is reasonable to assume that an absolute miminum of £4.80 is spent each working day on parking if you want to work there. The second is the fact that your stay is however strictly limited to four hours.

    This is all administered by East Hampshire Council whose offices happen to be located at the edge of the town. There is ample car parking for staff there – no limit and no charge.

  5. Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Good point. Pity that so many Councils are now under Conservative control but little has changed apparently.

  6. Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    The powers that be have forgotten what roads are for. We pay through the nose in taxation to be able to use cars for our convenience. Roads are meant to be there to facilitate our movement around the area, not as a means for Police and Politicians to persecute us. The bus service around here is not terribly good – those who use them to commute any distance have to leave home at very inconvenient times to use public transport.

    Here is Surrey, most country lanes are now subject to a ridiculous 40mph speed limit, with 30mph limits for villages starting up to a mile away from the houses, in open country side. Then there are various official bodies encouraging bored little old ladies to sit on the edges of villages with speed cameras to try and catch us all out.

    There was even one particularly stupid local politician who claimed that the badly potholed roads were a good thing because it forced drivers to go even more slowly.

    The whole system has been devalued. I live on a road that has had a perfectly reasonable 40mph limit for decades, but because the rest of the area has had so many extra unnecessary limits added, it is now largely ignored. Their “solution” is to reduce the speed limit to an unreasonable 30mph, and add some obstructions in the road.

    Speed in itself does not kill, but carelessness does. Taking care involves driving at a speed appropriate for the conditions. However, it’s much easier for the Police to make money using automatic cameras triggered by speed, so bad driving at lower speeds goes unpunished. It doesn’t occur to those who make and enforce the rules to treat us all like adults.

    When you have made a mess of a system by making changes, have the good grace to admit your error and change things back. Don’t compound the error by added even more crazy changes.

    It’s the same as with Government finances – you don’t solve a problem caused by debt with even more borrowing.

  7. Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    You are (again) so right! We always try to go into Wisbech every Saturday morning. I gazed round at the empty shops, the charity shops and the Poundland shops, having just parked in the huge free car park, and thought “Why do I bother?”
    Lots of little interesting shops are set up, but they don’t last long. Why? Could it be the tax? Or Elfin safety? Or the huge insurance fees?
    (I got all this from a local Internet Provider who had wanted to set up a small independent school locally.)
    So we usually end up shopping at ASDA or Tesco outside the town.

  8. Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    My local council (Hounslow) has wonderful parking facilities for the top brass and an easy walk into the town centre. It seems to me that the High Street has outlived its usefulness. Why waste time going there when you can shop at an out-of-town supermarket with all the convenience that entails? I loathe visiting my local high street.
    In addition we need to talk more about the culture of petty bullying carried on by councils against motorists. Parking fines are a source of revenue and motorists are fair game. Why go to the High Street when you can’t park?

    In the next ten years there will be three social trends (1) the collapse of the pub (2) the decline of the High Street and (3) the implosion of the Church of England and the redundancy of many of its churches (16,000 listed buildings). We should begin thinking now about how we are going to deal with those social trends.

    • Posted July 21, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Indeed, aren’t pubs struggling because of the high prices they have to charge because of excess taxation? My (rather charming) local pub in Old Basing charges about £3.20 for a pint, the supermarket £10 for 24 cans.

      (Amusingly ~ tell this to a socialist and their ‘solution’ is to put more taxes on the supermarket!!)

  9. Posted July 21, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Absolutely hit the nail on the head there Mr Redwood. In West Bridgford where I used to shop regularly the growth of parking enforcers and other anti-car measures such as you describe has made it a no-go area as far as I am concerned. I fell foul of their tricky rules three times in two months at a cost of nearly £100, of course there is no way you can appeal because they can always point to a well-concealed sign with the absolving smallprint somewhere in the vicinity. So I now drive miles further to out-of-town shopping centres where the parking is free of charge and free of harassment. Net result of all this is less trade on the high street and more CO2 released into the atmosphere

  10. Posted July 21, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    But:

    “Providing more parking spaces may, in the long term, encourage car transport, in particular if they are free of charge.”

    I know that, because I read it in the 2007 Green Paper, “Towards a new culture for urban mobility”, referenced here:

    http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/transport/bodies_objectives/l24484_en.htm

    The EU may not have any direct legal power over car parking in Wokingham; but at the very least it has a great deal of influence through the UK government, and therefore probably some degree of indirect legal power.

    Why? Because:

    “While it is true to say that these problems occur on a local level, their impact is felt on a continental scale: climate change/global warming, increased health problems, bottlenecks in the logistics chain, etc.

    Local authorities cannot face all these issues on their own; there is a need for cooperation and coordination at European level. The vital issue of urban mobility needs to be addressed as part of a collective effort at all levels: local, regional, national and European.

    The European Union must play a leading role in order to focus attention on this issue.”

    • Posted July 21, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      The sad fact of life Dennis is that in Europe most towns do not charge for parking at all.

      I have travelled extensivelly in Europe by car, and whilst it may be difficult to park in some towns, free parking is the norm, beacuse they want you to stay and spend money.

      • Posted July 24, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        National pride prevails throughout the EU with ‘well funded’ communities ensuring user friendly free car parking.

        Nulabor continues to encourage ‘out of town’ superstore monopolies and ‘out of town’ housing developments. It’s method of community funding is based on ‘politics’, not community need.
        Conservative run Councils are always allocated the lowest funding possible.

  11. Posted July 21, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I’m with you on this one. If it’s a major shopping trip, we frequently choose to go to Basingstoke instead of Reading to shop. Even though it’s twice as far to get there, it takes about the same amount of time (since Reading traffic planners seem to think cars should only come one way into town.)
    Once you get there, parking in Basingstoke’s new shopping center is much easier, and *far* cheaper. Easily offsetting any extra petrol costs. And when you get there, the high street shops are all the same, so it really doesn’t matter where you are.

    If we’re just popping into to grab a couple of things, then we normally just pop into Wokingham, but even then, it’s tempting to head to the out of town shops with free parking than the hassle of having the right change for the pay and display machines. That’s why people end up trawling round tesco/asda to find some odds and ends instead of popping into a local shop in Wokingham.

    It’s sad that small independents loose out this way, and online shopping will only make this worse as there are fewer people in the high street to pop into the independent shops while they are there.

  12. Posted July 21, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    It’s not just parking costs for the consumer, the ever increasing bussines rates and rental charges are ridiculous.
    The country has been in decline for a long time due to this, forget the final burst of the bubble the sighns were showing for a long time.

    Compared to income the amount that a small business must pay if it has a brick and mortar presense is quite frankly ridiculous.
    It makes standard council tax look sensible!

  13. Posted July 21, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Councils are increasingly state controlled in terms of planning diktat and funding. Constituents in one London borough were promised, and received a 3% reduction in Council Tax for two years if they voted for a certain Labour candidate at the Council elections – bribery ?

    Councils run by those other than Labour receive much lower grants and have no option but make up shortfalls in car parking fees etc.

    Whilst market town traders in the south struggle to survive, out of town monopolies (government planning) laud increased profits.

    Green labelled, controversial out of town ‘eco’ developments are a threat to the environment. That supplied by government means additional borrowings against taxpayers – another non-competitive PFI whose profiteering beneficiaries will not be local builders or traders, but those tied to the Labour ‘brand’,

    We’re witnessing the decimation of free trading communities in which Councils and residents are bound by the ‘state’. David Cameron has the right antidote – de-centralization and local control.

    • Posted July 21, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Labour’s top down approach to planning through the medium of undemocratic regional government has been a disaster. It needs to be unpicked as soon as possible, and control returned to local Councils.
      BUT
      Councils run by those other than Labour can always opt to review their overheads and cut out wasteful spending.
      In particular, Conservative councils need to stop relying on parking charges – which disadvantage local businesses – and focus on those good old Conservative values – better government and lower taxes.

      • Posted July 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        As you are not privvy to rates of government funding to Councils, politically prejudicially biased, and/or Council budgets and expenditure, you’re not qualified to make unsubstantiated allegations of waste in ‘non-Labour’ run Councils.

        Local businesses are disadvantaged by state and EU red tape over and above parking charges.

        • Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          You are incorrect.
          I am privy to rates of government funding and Council budgets and expenditure and I am also professionally qualified to consider this information and make allegations of waste in “non-Labour” run Councils.

          Regrettably, not all Conservative councils are run on Conservative lines.

          State and EU red tape certainly does disadvantage local businesses but that does not excuse councils which add to the burden with – as John so aptly put it – ” rip off parking regimes”.

        • Posted July 23, 2009 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          No Deborah, revenue enhancing parking charges are made inevitable by Councils given the lowest possible funding. Income and expenditures are readily available to citizens. Councils in our area operate on the basis of transparency and accountability.

      • Posted July 22, 2009 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        Deborah,

        Whilst you claim a ‘direct line’ to government data, you produce no evidence to support your allegations.

        ‘Non Labour’ run Councils are not responsible for government underfunding – political prejudice. Car park charges are an inevitable outcome.

        • Posted July 22, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          No, Jean, excessive car parking charges are not inevitable.

          I refer you to my orginal point: Non-labour councils can (and Conservative councils should) always opt to review their overheads and cut out wasteful spending.

          You seem very protective of wasteful Conservative councils – are you serving on one?

    • Posted July 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt you, then what is the point of voting in local elections?

      My Tory council spends a fortune on resident and business communication magazines, flyers, info booklets, service guides etc. I would have thought that they would have mentioned that they have no control over expenditure in one of those.

      I thought I was voting for someone to represent me and my needs as a resident rather than someone to implement a budget. It’s a shame that in the County Council election recently not one candidate mentioned that if elected they’d have no influence.

      I haven’t seen any Tory party policies to change this when they form the next government.

      • Posted July 23, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        Councils have no control over government under funding/political prejudice.

        Well run Councils, such as yours, do keep their communities well informed via leaflet etc. It keeps people totally in touch with what’s available to citizens, services, voluntary groups etc. etc. For instance, I purchased reduced cost composters supplied and advertized by our Council – great service and great communication.

        Perhaps you would prefer centralized control from Brussels and no literature.

        • Posted July 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          No actually, I am perfectly capable of reading the website the council has with that info, I am perfectly capable of ringing the council and asking if I want specific information. What I don’t want is £3million of taxpayers money wasted on guff!

          Please! reduced cost composters, do you really need the council to spend taxpayers money to tell you that! Google it for goodness sake.
          My council is not well run, it is a keynesian spender of taxpayers money on lots of things that it has no mandate or need to spend it on, yet fails to fix potholes or cut kerbside vegetation etc.

          If you asked your citizens if they wanted communication, composter info/sales or a reduction in council tax I know what the answer would be.

          Jean I’m sorry the most worrying thing about your response isn’t the willingness to see tax money spent on this kind of stuff but your assertion that councillors have no control. Once again I ask, what is the point in voting for them then.

          To answer your final point what I would prefer is democracy, that would be a referendum on leaving the EU and no literature, magazines, communications, advertising posters, signs warning us to beware of this or that, council information boards etc

        • Posted July 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          Paul,

          Council members are democratically elected, but bound by government diktat and politically motivated methods of funding.

          Information leaflets relevant to work and activities in and supporting communities are useful and welcomed; paper is recycled. Composting bins were cheaper than online and locally delivered, thus saving carbon emissions in transport.

          The strain on Councils resources – escalating population and reduced incomes have, according to reports, resulted in inadequate road maintenance nationally. Revenue from motorists is used for purposes other than maintenance, except perhaps motorways and lucrative PFI ‘widening’ projects.

          The only Councils able to reduce Council Tax are those with surplus government funding and/or a reduction in the number of residents, the latter being non existent given Nuliebor’s open door immigration policies.

          Communities need local representation and management as in all civilized, democratic societies; Council members are elected on their merits, work and aims for fellow community members. Citizens also have the right to vote on matters of national importance, the Lisbon Treaty being one example, a right denied them by Nuliebor. Of critical importance, as you say, is a referendum on leaving the EU.

        • Posted July 24, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

          Jean

          “Council members are elected on their merits”.

          Not quite the case, as most people vote for a party, not the person.

          This is evident by how few independent people there are in local and national government positions.

          I know a number of Councillors who are absolutely bloody useless, but still get voted in because they are members of the right party. Others as you say are completely devoted and do the job well.

          I have experience that some Councillors on some Planning Committes cannot even read a Constructional drawing.

          No I am not a Councillor, neither do I work in local government.

  14. Posted July 21, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    John as well as parking charges there is of course planning law. Useless old buildings are retained by order of the council. If a large supermarket wished to buy up part of a crappy high street, flatten it and provide a mega-store with a huge free car park the council will say no whether Labour, Liberal or Conservative.

    • Posted July 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Not so with Labour. Stephen Byers (reportedly) intercepted and overruled a Council’s & Inspector’s refusal of Tesco’s plans to convert a Listed Building – former London Hospital – into a superstore.

      • Posted July 22, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the information. However I continue to feel that the present planning system is a NIMBYs paradise. It is neither Socialist planning or Free market. Just local councillors pretending the 1950s can be brought back.

        • Posted July 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          Not so, check out Nulabor’s directives for 10,000 more houses in the Gatwick area, having reduced services at the local hospital.

  15. Posted July 21, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Those of us who are old enough remember the days when many got around on bicycles. BHS, M&s, Woolworths and factories had long bike racks outside for their shoppers and employees to use.

    Although times have drastically changed since then, planners have failed to keep up.

    When a new local ‘out of town interchange park was opened a few years back, it was anchored by big name stores yet the car park was so small fifty per cent of those heading there are unable to park. The council insisted it would be far better to use their ‘Park and Ride facility’ which was also tiny and costs.

    In their wisdom, the local council tore up two major in town car parks to build flats, (insert immigration dig here), with shops at the bottom. One slight flaw was that there is no parking at all for quite some distance.

    Needless to say, the backstreet shops still remain empty.

  16. Posted July 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    You draw attention to one important series of planning issues. One consequence of Council attitudes is that now everyone drives further to get to out of town shopping, adding to congestion and reducing the overall efficiency of distribution to the end consumer (not green!). Hollowed out town centres become caries of social decay. These problems are aggravated by the subsidies paid to public transport for OAPs and children, resulting in fares that are uncompetitive with a car even for a single traveller who is unsubsidised, because the companies depend on subsidy, not real competition, to survive (also not green!).

    Perhaps an underlying problem is the unrealistic obligations imposed on Councils to spend on fripperies of the socialist project whilst failing to fund them adequately so additional revenue is sought from parking. The consequence will be collapsing business rates and a further financial crisis.

    These issues also apply to the location of jobs.

    The internet has already made a big difference to shopping for many items: it provides a shop window, and a resource for garnering opinions and reviews about many goods and suppliers that can steer purchases, as well as mail order delivery that can be more efficient than buying the goods in person at the nearest store now that it is no longer in your local high street. Where this works, it lowers costs for business and consumers. The internet also allows many jobs to move close to people’s homes (if homes were large enough to provide a separate office, actually in to them – but modern rabbit hutches mandated by Labour planners fail that test). Instead we see increased commuting distances, and new housing estates planned without centres of employment, adequate shopping, schools or recreation. Instead of creating a more efficient economy, business responds to the incentives created by perverse taxation and planning regulation.

    Let’s not forget that the humps and bumps are not merely obstacles to efficient transport that increase fuel consumption and pollution – they are now reaching the point at which they cost more lives due to delays to emergency services than they save due to reduced severity of road accidents. Of course, the Department against Transport (it can’t be rationally described as “for”) believes that we should have the safest roads in the world at whatever cost – be it in money or lives so long as they’re not road accident statistics.

    • Posted July 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      If you look carefully, many of those unrealistic, unfunded “obligations” to spend on “fripperies of the socialist project” are actually discretionary.
      If Councils chose their activities more carefully rather than simply humouring senior officers (whose CVs and career aspirations tend to be furthered by ticking government boxes) they would not have to impose such unhelpful parking charges.

      • Posted July 22, 2009 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

        Totally agree with you Deborah. I have recently highlighted over £3 million of savings I could achieve for my council with just a perfunctory look. I emailed the Leader of my council to ask individually for each item why the expenditure. The answer was the same for each…..communication….that’s right propoganda telling us that targets have been reached.

  17. Posted July 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    All parking should be free, TV and Internet should be free.
    the less taxes people have to pay, the more they are able to spend.

    and if you abolish all taxation except on purchases, then only vendors need fill in tax returns.
    Getting rid of hundreds of thousands of wastefull civil servants, many of whom are not civil a all.
    Savings acres of trees into the bargain.
    Couple that with coining rather than borrowing our money, we need only work 2 days per week to afford a decent standard of living, I doubt your average caveman had to work 40 hrs per week to provide for his family, what point is it owning a fabulous car, large screen tv, a boat if you and your children are never at home to enjoy them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0IM7Hobd_k

  18. Posted July 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    The High Street was pretty well doomed when the Conservatives
    abolished the much misunderstood Resale Price Maintenance ( a trading agreement instituted by manufacturers to limit destructive discounting by retailers) in 1964 under Lord Home at the behest of Edward Heath ( who was ,no doubt, obsessed with his usual mission to get British industry in shape to enter “the Common Market”).

    The American Supreme Court revisited the arguments recently,calling economists to give evidence, in the case of Leegin Creative Leather vs PSKS finding in favour of Leegin’s that PSKS broke an agreement not to discount.It re-legalised RPM.
    Not a scintilla of interest in the UK press or among politicians.

    The puerility of what passes for political debate in this country is really alarming.

  19. Posted July 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as an M&S employee in Summertown Oxford I can tell you that customers resent traffic wardens and parking fees and the lack of parking spaces more than the 5p carrier bag charge ! If parking was not so difficult & costly consumers would stay longer in Summertown & spend more money – thus making local peoples jobs much safer. Car parking is a real hot potato of an issue as customers who I serve on the till resent being milked for car parking charges when the motorist pays so much in fuel & road taxes and in council tax and then the local authority taxes them again. People have to pay a tax for owing a car or van ( Road Tax), then get taxed for using it ( Road Fuel Tax) and then face a tax for parking it.

    Whoever is in power will tax the motorist heavily as 1) The need to limit Co2 emissions & 2) It is more palatable than raising basic rate income tax.

    If in return for rising fuel & road duties the roads where of a higher quality, the rail service was more user friendly and car parking was cheaper & more plentiful with an end to the speed camera based persecution of car users drivers might not be quite so cross.

    It annoys me that customers have to rush round our nice branch of M&S to avoid being caught on double-yellow lines or to avoid going over the amount of time that their car parking ticket runs for. It puts them in a mood sometimes and ruins their shopping experience which is unfair as the local council knew for months that we were going to be open in October 2002. Nearly seven years on it has not dawned on them that a new branch of M&S means more consumers visiting the local area & thus the need for better car parking facilities. Council Tax , the local authority grant , Transport spending and taxes on the motorist have all risen between 1997 & 2008 so why on earth the council could not have taken some action is a mystery to me !

    The local council in Summertown is not well regarded by M&S customers who just want a nice shopping experience that is not spoiled by car parking problems.As I say that annoys them more than the 5p carrier bag charge – at least the profit on that goes to a green charity Groundwork UK & has cut bag usage by some 80%.

    The moral of this sorry tale is that big government spending has not delivered in a key field of public policy ( lack of car parking & excess congestion) while a private sector initiative has worked ( fewer plastic bags in circulation & more environmental regeneration in deprived areas).

    Once Sir Stuart Rose steps down from M&S could Mr Cameron give him a Peerage and make him a Minister ? I am sure that Lord Rose would make a fine job on either business regulation & trade, tax policy, the environment or public health or helping the Third World. He has much experience from his time at M&S that would benefit a Cameron led government – Plan A chimes well with what David Cameron wishes to achieve on social justice & the environment after all.

    If Labour can have their ex-M&S boss in government ( Lord Myners ) why can’t the Tories have Sir Stuart Rose ?

  20. Posted July 21, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    John

    Spot on with your comments.

    A large number of shops in the High Street will eventually just become demonstration areas for branded goods, which people will then buy on line due to cost.
    Those shops will then close due to lack of business.

    A shop cannot hope to compete with just a distribution warehouse, as the labour, advertising, rent, rates and general overhead structure will not allow it to.

    In short we will get what we deserve in the long run.

    Councils should wake up and smell the bacon, unless they want all shops to be coffee shops, another fad that will pass time.

  21. Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    The commercial take over of our town centers will hopefully give way to some better use (cafes, restaurants, etc.) as commerce moves online. If so we can hopefully get beyond the tedious identikit high streets populated by the same generic stores that blight urban landscapes throughout the country.

  22. Posted July 21, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Some councils just have no Idea. North Norfolk has just put up shoppers parking by 40%. Where as Breckland is mostly free.

    Guess the one is run by the Liberals and the one that is Tories.

    North Norfolk is concerned about its towns it says . Then wacks up the parking.

  23. Posted July 22, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Completely agree with you about the empty shops and town centre policy’s in general, and each time another closes the local council has to hike up other charges to make the books balance.

    That is why I think Business rates should be abolished, because they stifle and strangle innovation and growth. They are an out moded method of taxation

    Instead the local council should collect VAT and get no block grant, and therefore it has to ensure that businesses flourish in its own area, rather than encouraging people to go out of town (out of the council’s area)

    I do hope that new future radical policies will free up business and benefit the consumer too by removing red tape and develop an atmosphere of entrepreneurial spirit.

    It would encourage councils to look at the whole picture because they would be accountable for it.

    I could also add that in a 24 hour/7 days a week retail and leisure environment I think that the concept of “le weekend” is also out moded. Many businesses have the capacity to allow people to work 5 days out of 7 on a rota, and this would clarify the huge traffic snarl ups at particular times of the week, maybe even smooth out “rush hours”

  24. Posted July 22, 2009 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    It should be noted that there are far less empty shops today than 1991. In 1991 there were empty units every other shop. Today, probably no more than 10% are empty.

    • Posted July 22, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Not in my town Bill and that is after large numbers of empty shops have been turned into large numbers of empty flats ( one of which is owned by Baroness Uddin, paid for by us on expenses but is also empty as she doesn’t live there).

    • Posted July 23, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Not in any of the towns I visit either

  25. Posted July 22, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    A few years ago a small town near where I live resolutely provided free car parking to encourage local trade.

    It eventually felt obliged to introduce car parking charges because if it hadn’t it would have lost too much earmarked funding from central government.

    Is this an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences or Intended Consequences?

    • Posted July 23, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      This result was completely intended. See my other comment below.

      That town, wherever it was, must be xceptional in the quality and wisdom of its administrators.

      Unfortunately, the sort of people who generally get jobs as members or employees of a “Council”, or worse, go into government, have a visceral and ingrained Gramscian outlook. Ultimately, in their world, “businesses” ought not really to exist. Everybody ought to be “working together towards”: the end of that road lies in the Gulag and in Pol Pot’s killing fields.

  26. Posted July 22, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    The problem is a strategic one involving objective definitions of good and of wickedness.

    When I was a boy, Councils were run by a couple of old ladies and retired colonels, they did the library and the dustmen, and not a lot else, and we were a free people. I remember hearing conversations about “The Rates”, and that they were going up by a shilling or so, to about £3 and “we’ll have to pay it somehow”.

    You would be hard pressed to name anybody you knew, or even didn’t know, who “worked for the Council”.

    The Long March Through The Institutions, and through broadcasting and media, by GramscoFabian fascism, has brought the whole of today’s Political Enemy-Class into being, and it works not “for” people, or even “in partnership with” people, but for itself, /against/ people….which is to say anybody not employed by the Public Sector or who does not share its cultural hegemony or its terms of discourse, such as what things can be said, and what things can be thought.

    To parking and the subsequent death of in-towm retailing (and of the “Business Rates” that were supposed to be farmed off this):

    It is a fundamental Article Of Faith among the Enemy-Class that the use of private transport for almost anything at all is, axiomatically – an evil and not a good. It is also a practical expression of individual liberty, which gets up the Enemy-Class’s noses even more. It enrages them that people try to afford a car, let alone try to actually use one. The same people love to talk about “Integrated transport Policies” – it makes me want to reach for a revolver, for then I know them for sure as enemies of Liberty. the Warsaw Pact countries had integrated transport policies: never mind the crud transport – they were so integrated that you had to get Police permits to travel, stating your reasons.

    So long as we have “Councils”, bursting at the seams with GramscoFabian proselytisers who thenk that the important thing is to group people into sheep (young people and hard-working families) and goats (anybody who disagrees or who is “middle class” or who needs to drive or is in the Private Sector) in a fascist way, then they will find ways to aggrandise themselves while de-civilising the nation and its traditions – such as ordinary towns full of different types of shops that you can get to.

    They know they are objectively wicked, and they are doing this deliberately.

  27. Posted July 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree with you John.

    My town in Kent has suffered all of these things at the hands of the Lib Dem council. Including building a brand new in town shopping mall. Which has been populated by most of the shops moving from the already existing in town mall and leaving it empty.

    So at last we voted in a Tory council…..oh dear..their first act was to impose parking restrictions and charges on residential streets on the edge of town, result two businesses ( a dry cleaners and childrens nursery) went bust and closed down. All the residents of the streets involved opposed the move.

    • Posted July 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      High business rates, rental charges and demand are also factors in the survival of a business. Independent childrens nurseries are subjected to horrendous amounts of government ‘red tape’, forcing many to close.

      The good thing about living in a democracy is that you can vote Council members ‘out’ as well as ‘in’.

      • Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

        Hi again Jean,

        It appears we are going to continue the same discussion ad nauseum. You are right about red tape, but these businesses closed because their customers were prevented from parking by the petty actions of a Conservative council. Yes we will vote them out again.

        As you say though whats the point in local councillors they have no say and don’t represent the ratepayer anymore but the EU and central government.

        What would be really brilliant would be a political party who campaigned on a platform of changing this situation.

  28. Posted July 22, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Hear Hear.
    Conservative Councils are amongst the worst offenders removing spaces from on and off street parking as well as sending in zero tolerance wardens. There is, as in so many other areas, little to choose between the “big 3”.

    • Posted July 24, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      The result of government diktat – pedestrianization, speed reducing vehicle damaging ‘humps’. Councils, like the NHS operate under clenched fist government control.

      • Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        A couple of questions Jean:

        Will a Conservative, Lib Dem or any other Government have any different diktats? (OK, Greens will get rid of all the spaces)

        If all councilors can do is rubber stamp central Governement decisions why bother voting for any of them?

        And an observation:

        Our council could have left things as they were. But they wanted to provide “enhancements”, that’s cobbles instead of tarmac. The price of cental gov assistance was to cut parking spaces.

      • Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        Jean,

        I have no desire to be rude to you but I can only conclude that you defend this situation because you are or have been a local councillor. However, I expect someone standing for public office to represent the people to do just that, represent The People. Certainly I have not heard one local politician campaign, get angry, write to the press or in all my correspondence with my councillors use the central diktat issue as a reason why things are the way they are. Now I suspect there is a very large element of truth in what you say but that makes my anger worse why is this not being highlighted? What are the councillors scared of? Oh it wouldn’t be that they could be reported and thrown out thereby losing their cushy little taxpayer funded status…..could it?

  29. Posted July 24, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    40% of all Christmas presents in 2008 were bought on the Internet. None of my children would dream of buying any piece of consumer electronics on the high street (or via an out of town retail shed). They increasingly buy clothing and even shoes and boots via the internet. The conventional retail sector has terrible productivity (and massive levels of employment) compared to efficient internet retailers like Amazon.

    In the strange world that local councillors inhabit, the Internet was never invented and they believe that those nice developers with their Section 106 bribes will actually deliver ‘urban regeneration’ and give them wonderful new town centres to be proud of. They are doomed to experience bitter disappointment.

    • Posted July 24, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Steve

      What you say is all well and good, but if we all continue to purchase as much as we can on the internet (and I am to some degree guilty as charged for some purchases) then many more shops will close due to lack of business.

      That by itself will mean that all you will be able to do eventually is shop by catalogue, or in supermarkets.

      Choice will then be more restricted.

      No shops will be left to demonstrate goods, to touch goods, to try things on, to examine the quality etc.

      I have no problem with people purchasing on line at all, but please do not get the local shop to spend time to demonstrate the goods for you, and then walk away and purchase on the internet without giving them a chance.

      No I am not a shopkeeper !!!!

      I just want a choice for my shopping in the future.

    • Posted July 24, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      People, especially children, still love to ‘go shopping’ – it’s social and REAL. Internet shopping excludes product testing, a real must for many.

      Councillors inhabit the same IT world as the rest of us; ‘nice developers with their Section 106 bribes’ understand Councils are powerless against methods of operation under the Labour Brand.
      The ‘ruling party’ continues to dictate and control planning.

    • Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      Totally right Steve,

      It’s called progress. There is still a place for retail shops but it is a different experience. I’m personally a lover of books and whilst I do buy books online only if I can’t get them in my local bookstore.

      Bookshop and other retailers must learn to innovate and offer a different experience to their customers and not one based on price or availability ( read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson for full story here).

      However here is the rank stupidity of the low intellectual level of dogma followed by local councillors ( or to placate Jean the EU and Labour govt.)

      Business rates are increasing and exactly what services do councils provide? They don’t even empty the bins for businesses

      They are vehemently anti car ( my Tory council are now refusing PP for shops/offices with parking spaces!!!!!!) How on earth are our staff and customers going to use these retail facilities?

      They are totally enamoured with High St “brand names” offering incentives to open shops ( so we have 3 branches of Next, 3 Topshops, 2 Boots) and almost no independent one off shops.

      Town centre is a no go area after dark, so restuarants, coffee shops and other social shopping experiences just don’t happen.

      The head office of my company is on the High st of my town. We have our building daubed with spray paint, human “fluids” of every kind , the windows ( and two times the door) put in EVERY week.
      Two Mondays ago my finance manager arrived to find a dead body on the front door step ( stabbed in a fight it turned out) this is the second murder outside our premises in 5 years. This is a rural county town for heavens sake. Policing???? There is a rumour that we have some but no one has actually confirmed a sighting yet. We do have wall to wall parking enforcement officers, PCSO’s ( sorry we don’t do SOC).

      However we get a brilliant glossy monthly magazine from our Borough Council telling us how lucky we are to live and work in this utopian town which hits all of its diversity targets and runs its disadvantaged workshops and street theatre co-ordination teams ( we don’t actually have any street theatre as it would contravene health and safety obviously but if we did it would be brilliantly co-ordinated by the 8 person team)

      And of course the flag ship of the borough the Town Centre Initiative, which involved closing all the central roads to traffic and pedestrianising them adding 30 minutes to a 20 minute journey on the gridlocked one way system. However we had some wonderful street furniture installed following the 20 person two week fact finding tour to Tuscany. Trouble was the week after they were installed a stolen car ( forgetting, no entry signs) plowed into the furniture mangling it. It has now been like it 4 months with some Police tape wrapped round it and a large council sign saying not in use.

      Sorry that turned into a rant but I’m totally fed up with”local democracy”.

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  • By The Daley Dozen: Tuesday | Newsjacker on July 22, 2009 at 1:21 am

    […] why she needs a holiday.9. Centre Right gives the Tory message in a 140 character tweet.10. John Redwood on empty shops.11. Tracey Crouch goes to Norwich.12. Party Lines on the ennoblement of Lord […]

  • […] of my favourite blogs the other day and there were lots of stories that caught my eye, but this post by John Redwood was particularly resonant with me, for reasons that should be […]

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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