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County MP blasts decision to leave Cumbria out of high streets scheme

An MP has blasted a “disgraceful” Government decision to leave Cumbria out of a £10 million scheme to revive Britain’s high streets.

Tony Cunningham photo
Tony Cunningham

Ministers revealed that the county would receive nothing from the High Street Innovation Fund, a scheme set up to help councils worst hit by empty shops.

The fund was set up following a review of town centres by retail guru Mary Portas.

Each council selected will get £100,000.

They include the local authority covering Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, which has just two empty shops, and Ewell and Epsom in Surrey – one of Britain’s most prosperous counties.

The fund is separate to the ‘Portas pilot’ project for which Maryport, Wigton, Penrith and Whitehaven are still in the running.

Workington’s Labour MP Tony Cunningham called yesterday’s announcement “disgraceful Tory cronyism”.

“Any Government with any semblance of fairness would have made sure Cumbria, an area so grievously blighted by floods just over two years ago, would have benefited from this,” he said.

“Somewhere like Maryport should have been a prime contender for help.

“When you consider it was only just over two years ago that Cockermouth town centre was destroyed by floods and Workington town centre was cut off when the bridges collapsed, it beggars belief that we didn’t get any help.

“It’s the same old Tories – they look after their own.”

The money was intended to go to areas suffering from a high proportion of empty properties and those recovering from last year’s riots.

But critics have pointed to a handout to Three Rivers District Council, whose main town, Rickmansworth, has just two empty shops.

A review of 85 of the 100 areas awarded funding, found that just 63 per cent of their core towns had a shop vacancy rate higher than the current national average of 14.6 per cent.

Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danczuk plans to raise the issue in Parliament.

Ministers say the areas of highest need were targeted.

Have your say

From another article in the EN&S: "Mr Stevenson added: “I’d like to see the council more involved in economic development. They are a substantial property owner and could do more with that portfolio.”

So Jim, it seems that our conservative MP, Mr. Stevenson also thinks that your colleague is perhaps not doing enough with her economic development portfolio, something I have been saying repeatedly for many months on here. If you retain control of the council, and the alternatves aren't that great either, then a reshuffle is in order. As I have maintained, that particular portfolio holder is nigh on invisible and seems to have done very little of any note despite your protestations to the contrary in defence of your constituent. Perhaps a few more urban tories taking the reins instead of the city being led by a rural conservative elite?

Posted by BM on 16 April 2012 at 23:52

James o, what is it you expect your council to do, faced with an empty shop owned by someone else?
Councils dont 'put' charity shops and cafes into empty buildings. How on earth do you think a Council would be able to do such a thing?
Some councils do own some buildings, and as landlords, like any other landlord they could do more to get tenants in. But, if they dont own the shop and dont run the catering business, what magical mythical powers do you think your omnipotent district and county councils have?

Should they have a vote at a council meeting?

"we the representatives of Whitehaven want the building owned by Joe Bloggs to be leased to the cafe owned by Mrs Miggins"

How would you feel if the council told you who, when and at what price to sell your house to?

Posted by Jim on 12 April 2012 at 10:25

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