- Eric Pickles
Let people control their high streets
I'm a councillor in Southwark where there are already 77 betting shops. As small shops shut in the downturn, bookies are opening in their place. And this story is being repeated across the UK.
But at the moment, local councils can’t control the number of betting shops in their community because they’re classified in the same way as banks, estate agents and restaurants.
We have a rare chance to change that. Mary Portas (also known as Queen of Shops) recently published a review of the high street and recommended giving local people new powers to limit the number of bookies in their communities. I'm campaigning for the Government to accept the recommendation.
Right now, the Government is deciding how to respond, promising to report back by May. If enough people speak out, they will be forced to reclassify betting shops.
There’s nothing wrong with responsible gambling, but too many bookies encourage poverty traps and crowd out other small businesses. Changing the classification would let local residents decide if they want more betting shops in their area.
Like the charity GRASP (Gambling Reform & Society Perception), I believe it's critical that the Government reclassify betting shops so local people can control the number in their area. I hope everyone that agrees will add their name to the campaign.
Local democracy should be a principle, not a gamble. Our high streets don’t deserve anything less.
You can watch one of GRASP's videos here: http://youtu.be/S-Sx4wzme4I
- Eric Pickles
Some of our poorest areas are being overrun with betting shops. People are worried that this can exploit the vulnerable and blight the high street. But at the moment communities have no power to limit them. I am writing to ask if you can change that.
This is not a campaign against gambling. It is a campaign that recongises a community's right to have a say over their area.
The campaign is supported by leaders across the political spectrum. Dave Parsons, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association's environment and housing board, believes in reform. So does David Lammy MP, Harriet Harman MP and many others.
Your own independent review from Mary Portas said that councils should be given control over the number of betting shops in their area by changing their use class. Doing this would fit perfectly with your localism agenda. I know you are planning your response now.
I urge you to hand the power down.
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