COUNCILS SHOULD be doing more to help attract shoppers to markets and high streets, according to a Government Minister.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said local authorities had a critical role to play in helping encourage people to visit traditional shopping centres which face competition from out of town developments and internet retailers. He was speaking after touring Morley Market and chatting to traders about the challenges they face.
Mr Pickles said: “[Councils] can’t get people to come but they can make it an attractive place to come and make sure it looks good.They can liaise, they can help organise different events to help attract people in. I can think of places, say, in the middle of France, people would be buzzing around that kind of place.”
Mr Pickles met with Conservative councillors from West Yorkshire who presented him evidence of what they regard as wasteful spending.
He said: “They gave me a whole list of things in terms of refurbishments, putting up council allowances, taxpayer paying for trade union activity.
“That may be a wonderful thing to do, I don’t want to see councillors not having money in their pocket but I think before they do that they should make sure services are pretty good.”
Shadow Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn, the Leeds Central MP, said: “Instead of having a go at Labour Councils who are working hard to provide good services in the face of Eric Pickles’ unfairly distributed cuts, why didn’t he use his visit to do something about the mess he’s created on transport?
“Two years ago he agreed a deal with the city region which promised funding for much-needed transport improvements in Yorkshire, and then subsequently undermined it. Our councils have come up with alternative proposals, but they’re being stonewalled. It’s time Mr Pickles sorted this out.”