PERIODICALLY THE Local Data Company (LDC) produce figures detailing shop premises occupancy, and every year Blackpool is among the worst performing in the UK.
In 2011, the LDC figures stated that Blackpool’s town centre had a massive 27.5% of shops left empty, and stated that the average figure for the UK was just 14.5%. At the time, Blackpool BID manager Eileen Ormand slammed the figures because they included areas of Blackpool that she didn’t think should be included (i.e. areas containing lots of empty premises).
Six months on, the latest report indicates more or less the same as that of 2011, with empty shop premises making up 26.6% of the town centre. Eileen Ormand was evidently unavailable for comment this time, but Les Ball, the BID business support manager, stepped up to the soap box. According to Mr Ball, the LDC figures were wrong and only 9.6% of shops were empty. He went on to say that the LDC’s figures were misleading because they included an area outside the town centre which he doesn’t class as the town centre.
Gordon Marsden MP has predictably jumped in to blame the Conservative government (for the 0.9% improvement in the figures?), with no retort from Paul Maynard MP.
Pretending there isn’t a problem seems rather silly. Is the number of shops empty an elephant in the room? Blackpool politicians and business officionados all seem to be talking around the problem, issuing blame where suits, when really they should be tackling the problem of a town centre being killed off by poor planning and poor political decisions.
We have just had the Mary Portas report which cites a lot of common sense points which should not need to be hammered into councils, BIDs and other quangocratic non-entities empowered to consume taxpayers’ money. Parking is too expensive and inconvenient. Congestion is a problem. Business rates are too high. Rents are too high and are not encouraging business startups. Public transport in Blackpool is appalling; buses are perpetually late.
Portas also said towns should create BIDs and should create a marketing company. Blackpool has those, but the marketing company is an ALMO that needs cutting loose else it will produce only mediocrity. The BID, well, what does this do other than service the Gasjet with a regular quote?