Talking politics: three ways to improve district

Martin Lee
Martin Lee

Mansfield’s Labour Leader Martin Lee on how taxing supermarkets could help boost the fortunes of local independent stores...

Next year we will have a general election, district council elections and here in Mansfield, a Mayoral election. Labour wants these elections to be true moments of change for our town.

I don’t accept that the Council’s role is to manage decline, as has been the case over the last decade. Your councillors are your representatives and our duty is to act in the best interests of all, and that means implementing policies that improve our district.

What can be done? Here are three of my ideas, with more to come over the coming months:

1) A “Supermarket tax”

The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 gives councils the power to submit proposals to central government about the social, economic and environmental improvements they want to see introduced in their local areas.

What I want is a “Supermarket Tax” allowing the Council to levy an additional business rate on supermarkets to finance support for independent businesses operating in our town centres.

We all use supermarkets as they are convenient. We can use their free car parking and shop for whatever we need.

They make huge profits as a result. But the down side of the growth of out of town supermarkets is that it is very difficult for our small retailers who operate in our town centres and on our estates to compete with these giants.

The money generated from an additional levy will allow the Council to promote our independent retailers, making grants available to improve the appeal of their premises and even making car parking free in our town centres. Labour’s first action in power will be to present to government a proposal for a Supermarket Tax following the example of many local authorities throughout the country who are taking this step now.

2) Improvement of outlying shopping/community areas. Many small businesses on our estates provide a vital local service but life is very tough for many of them.

They need Council support by ensuring the environment in which they operate is secure and attractive. Labour councillors are working hard to improve the Ladybrook Lane Square, dealing with years of neglect to make this an attractive place for people to visit and shop. This is an example that a Labour administration will follow for the benefit of local residents, breathing life back into areas, forgotten for too long.

3) Town centre and Market development. Without doubt shopping habits have changed but I believe there is a great future for our Market and our town centre. The Market needs to be improved and expanded with new stallholders encouraged to set up businesses. Small independent retailers need to be supported and facilities improved to make a visit to the town centre a varied and enjoyable day out.

The night time experience should be more family friendly. There needs to be greater use of the Market place, making it a centre for regular events. Importantly unused shops should be converted into residential accommodation to populate the town and provide much needed housing. Labour will make this happen through the planning system.

I welcome your thoughts.

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