8 Apr 2013

Miliband: Labour will help councils shape the high street

Ed Miliband vows that a Labour government will bring in powers to stop high streets from being swamped with payday lenders and betting shops, as he launches his party’s local election campaign.

Ed Miliband has vowed to give councils powers to prevent their high streets becoming saturated with payday lenders (picture: Reuters)

The Labour leader will say on Monday that a Labour government will change planning laws so that councils can refuse permission for certain businesses to open on the high street.

At the launch of the campaign in Ipswich, Mr Miliband will take particular aim at payday lenders, saying: “Everyone here today knows how important our high streets are to towns and cities across Britain. They’re not just the places we go to shop. They’re the heart of our local communities.

“But today our high streets are changing – and often not for the better.

David Cameron’s government used to say it would give people that kind of chance. But it hasn’t delivered. Ed Miliband

“Take an example. One of the fastest growing businesses on the high street are the payday lenders, sometimes charging extortionate rates of interest.

“In hard times, it is no wonder people turn to them. But often they just engulf people in debts that they cannot pay. Interest rates of over 1,000 per cent.

“Too many councils are finding that they don’t have the real power to stand up for local people. But that is what politics is supposed to be about: standing up for those without power and giving power to them.

“Currently if a bank branch closes down, there’s nothing a council can do if a payday loan shop wants to move in and open up in the same place. Even if there’s another lender next door. That can’t be right.”

‘Enough is enough’

Labour plans to create an additional “umbrella” planning class which would allow councils to put some properties into a separate category. The new category would mean the council could then block a change of use at the property.

“This will be different in local areas, local solutions to local problems,” he will say. “But it means that when they want, the people in our towns and cities can say: ‘No. Enough is enough’.

“David Cameron’s government used to say it would give people that kind of chance. But it hasn’t delivered. In fact, it is moving in the opposite direction. Not standing up to the powerful interests. So it is up to us to give local people a proper chance to protect the places that they love. To turn their high streets around.”

Mr Miliband, who will travel to Cambridge and Stevenage, later on Monday, is focusing on key target areas for the next general election, including places where Labour has never controlled the local authority, as well as towns where the party hopes to win council seats.

He will add: “In this local election campaign we have five clear ways in which we would make different choices from this government. Different priorities about who we stand up for, and different ideas about who to stand up to.

“We should cancel the millionaires’ tax cut, and protect the tax credits that make work pay for working people.

“We should introduce a mansion tax on houses worth over £2m to help bring back a 10p starting rate for income tax and make work pay for millions.

“We should stop the big energy company rip-offs, with proper reform of our energy market to break the stranglehold of the big six energy companies.

“We should crack down on train companies putting the price of the daily commute further and further out of reach.

“And we should give every council the power to control the payday loan companies opening up on our high streets.”