Mrs Blears has noticed that some of our High Streets are in a bad way. Her answer? Make it easier to set up advice services or other public activities in other people’s property, and if all else fails to get Councils to take over empty shops by compulsion. After the banks, comes the retail sector! First damage it, then take it over.
Over the Easter period I have visited a couple of our Cathedral cities. I was unhappy but not surprised to see just how much decay there now is in middle England. Empty shop properties are gnawing away at the heart of the commercial centres like death watch beetle in the timbers of society.Litter and graffitti were testimony to the lack of pride and discipline. Public space has become no man’s land. Concerned adults are too frigthened to complain if someone litters or abuses it.
Each city had a welter of really ugly buildings close to the centre. Why did they get planning permsision? Because they were all buildings to provide public facilities at the taxpayers expense. These buildings were usually poorly maintained and especially prey to litter and street art.
It’s not just the retail centres of some cities and market towns that are dying. It’s the sense of civic pride, of shared space, of mutual responsibility. Labour is turning our town and city centres into unpleasant areas of public squalor, supervised by the all pervasive surveillance cameras and by an establishment that has no concern for or understanding of the weft and warp of our society.
We are in danger of being left with vast areas of public space controlled by the graffitti artists and gangs in the evenings. The rest of us will venture into this alien environment rarely for short periods. We will not linger long, deterred by the rip off car parking charges and by the need to comply with an ever more terrifying array of traffic and personal conduct rules and laws. We know the yobs will flaunt all this with no consequence for them, and we know if we make a mistake we will be pounced on. Council officials will enjoy their privileged car parks close to the centre whilst making it as difficult as possible for the rest of us to get in and to park.
As the Today progrgamme wisely reminded us this morning, soon everything in Britain will either be banned or will be compulsory. With Mrs Blears adding her pennyworth to Mr Darling and Mr Brown, more will also soon be run down at the taxpayers expense.