Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can’t take action

Carl Packman reports on Rowenna Davis’s campaign to allow councils the powers needed to ensure that high streets aren’t overrun by betting shops.

 

Rowenna Davis, a Southwark councillor and campaigner, has today launched her high streets first campaign – the aim of which is to pressure Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to giving local councils the power to limit the number of betting shops in a local area.

As Davis penned in a recent blog post:

“My constituents tell me [betting shops are causing problems]… The problem is that as a councillor, I can’t do anything about it.

“Current planning laws mean that local councils have no meaningful way of controlling the number of betting shops in their area.

The reason local councils are powerless to limiting the amount of betting shops in their local area is because currently betting shops are classified in the same way as banks, estate agents and restaurants.

But a recent report by the “queen of shops” Mary Portas recommended that the government make changes to the status so as to easily keep check of the number of such shops on the high street.

In Portas’s independent review into the future of the high street she notes her belief that:

The influx of betting shops, often in more deprived areas, is blighting our high streets […] Currently, betting shops are oddly and inappropriately in my opinion classed as financial and professional services.

Having betting shops in their own class would mean that we can more easily keep check on the number of betting shops on our high streets.

Davis is keen to point out that this is not an anti-gambling campaign. She told me:

There’s nothing wrong with responsible gambling, I do it myself. But people in my constituency are worried that their high streets are being overrun by bookies, and local councils don’t have any meaningful powers to change that.

Every time a good local business closes in the downturn, another betting shop seems to open in it’s place. We now have more betting shops than libraries or post offices in some of our poorest areas. People love their high streets – they should be able to shape what they look like.

This isn’t about whether you are for or against gambling, it’s whether you support a community’s right to choose.

In an article for the New Statesman at the end of last year, Davis pointed out that betting shops were often conveniently located close to payday loan shops.

In December last year the Financial Times ran a story (£) explaining how American executives of Speedy Cash – a payday lending business – travelled to London in order to take advantage of the UK’s soft touch regulation on the industry.

Jeff Weiss, the chief executive of listed US lender DFC Global – now the biggest UK payday lender by market share, owning among others The Money Shop – speaking at a New York investment conference during the summer of 2011, was nothing if not honest when he said:

“We diversified into geographies like Canada and the UK with relatively little competition where we can build a dominant market position.”

Weiss likes to use the term Alice – “asset-limited, income-constrained, employed” – to refer to his customer base, but neglects to mention the risk payday loans have even for the employed, who are suffering a relative fall in their incomes, pay freezes, underemployment and the rising cost of utilities.

What Davis has realised is that the rise in betting shops and payday loan stores has taken place on our, often deprived, high streets, at a time when people are feeling the pinch the most.

With interventions from the coalition government like the reform of the social fund – which, instead of expanding the emergency crisis payments, made the decision to scrap it entirely – more people are likely to find alternative means of surviving until pay day.

Davis’ high street first campaign addresses a major part of the problem, which is that councils are unable to have a say on how many betting shops litter a locality, which therein creates greater social and economic problems. Eric Pickles would do well to listen to Davis, and take heed of the recommendations on betting shops in the Portas review.

To sign the petition, click here.

See also:

Legal loan sharks are licking their lips as the social fund is scrappedPete Jefferys, January 26th 2012

Ignore Wonga’s spin; they’re still targeting studentsAlex Hern, January 13th 2012

Wonga target students with friendly advice: Take our 4000% loanAlex Hern, January 11th 2012

Here’s what the Portas review left outElizabeth Cox, December 13th 2011

Livingstone tackles “proliferation” of betting shopsToby Thomas, September 9th 2010

23 Responses to “Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can’t take action”

  1. Anonymous

    Any messages you want to send to sacked betting shop workers?

  2. Rowenna

    Local democracy is a principle, not a gamble. Nice piece by @carlraincoat on LFF //t.co/FGwtbnLH #HighStreetsFirst

  3. Christopher Snowdon

    Look, if the "community" didn't want betting shops, they'd have closed down by now wouldn't they? //t.co/tlzXa6QS

  4. Ron Milford

    Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can't take action: In an article for the New Statesma… //t.co/93R8wMS6

  5. Patrick

    You forget the fact that gambling is not supply-elastic. Trebling the number of betting shops on a high street does not mean that the number of gamblers trebles. All that happens is that the different companies compete for the same business. You could well argue that is better for the consumer.

    Secondly, betting shops aren’t squeezing other businesses out. They’re taking locations that other businesses can’t make profitable.

  6. Murray Rothbard

    “@leftfootfwd: Betting shops on high streets, councils can’t take action: //t.co/NSIT6mOY”<<If they are not wanted they will go bust

  7. Amiee Smith

    High street vacancy rates stand at 14% – so how on earth can you complain that betting shops and are filling some of these premises!

    They generate footfall, pay business rates and create jobs. The betting industry takes on a relatively high proportion of staff with few qualifications, and provides them with structured training and long term career opportunities. My mum works for William Hill and she worked her way from the till to area manager.

    If you limit the number of betting shops your high street will die quicker than they already are and people like my mum will losse their job.

  8. Monika Schwartz

    Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can’t take action: //t.co/7JjwLBUy by @CarlRaincoat #HighStreetsFirst

  9. tom sheils

    Real cost of gambling: shame on Labour & Tories alike “@leftfootfwd: Betting shops //t.co/b0aeOInD by @CarlRaincoat #HighStreetsFirst”

  10. David First

    Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can't take action //t.co/nnoZzNHJ

  11. Justin Templer

    Look, if the "community" didn't want betting shops, they'd have closed down by now wouldn't they? //t.co/tlzXa6QS

  12. Paul Douglas

    Are you kidding me with this?

  13. Brnch Sec Ruth H

    Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can’t take action: //t.co/7JjwLBUy by @CarlRaincoat #HighStreetsFirst

  14. Michael

    Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can’t take action – //t.co/q9Ycz8CI

  15. Susan Grey

    Betting shops are blighting our high streets, and councils can’t take action: //t.co/7JjwLBUy by @CarlRaincoat #HighStreetsFirst

  16. imogen ward

    members of @betterarchway concerned about betting shops in N19 will be inspired by @RowennaDavis brilliant campaign //t.co/xpPj5kzT

  17. imogen ward

    @betterarchway are campaigning against ANOTHER #bettingshop on Junction Road @RowenaDavis campaign very timely //t.co/17f97rEf

  18. Chriskitcher

    If, as at least one Council did, refuse a fast food takeaway on health grounds next to a school why can you not refuse a betting shop on health grounds especially in a deprived area

  19. Better Archway

    @betterarchway are campaigning against ANOTHER #bettingshop on Junction Road @RowenaDavis campaign very timely //t.co/17f97rEf

  20. Ginny Hendricks

    @betterarchway are campaigning against ANOTHER #bettingshop on Junction Road @RowenaDavis campaign very timely //t.co/17f97rEf

  21. Patrick

    Well there’s an obvious difference.

    Children, being children, are not the best judge of what is best for them, and need protecting by society from bad influences. That’s why we don’t (legally) sell cigarettes or alcohol to them.

    It is generally accepted that adults, on the other hand, are able to make informed choices about what is best for them, and even if they choose not to follow that path, that is their personal choice, and stems from personal freedom.

    That to my mind, gets to heart of what is wrong with socialism. A small group of people attempt to create a paternalistic, controlling influence over a large group, because they have an unshakeable conviction in their own moral superiority. But what moral right does one group of people have to dictate the choices and freedoms available to others? People should be given freedom to persue their own goals, lives and choices, free from interference from the state. And that is a principle that people have embraced across the world. Look at the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the Arab Spring, the current demos in Russia. State control should be rejected, not embraced.

  22. Carl Packman

    @EllieCRobinson Absolutely true! Blatant plug but I wrote about this //t.co/6phPCG3R

  23. ArmandoARogers

    …..All time hit leftfootforward. Find Here

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