During a recent de bate in Parliament I called on the Government to look again at its policy on town centres.
The debate in Westminster Hall debate, which was called by my colleague, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, focused on the Governments policy on high streets since the publication of a review into their future in 2011.
The review, which was carried out by TV presenter and retail expert Mary Portas, lead, amongst other things, to the formation of what became known as “Town Teams” in town centres around the country.
My opinion is that the Portas review was quite a good piece of work, and the work that has been done in Stalybridge is demonstrating the benefit of the partnership model that she had in mind.
The purpose of town Teams is to bring together community leaders, businesses, and ordinary members of the community, to work together to revive their struggling high streets.
In Tameside, Stalybridge became the first to establish a Town Team, before five other towns in the area decided to follow suit. I have been a keen supporter of the Town Team concept from the start and I have pleased with the successes that we have had with it so far.
So far, the only role the Government has really had in supporting this is through relatively small amounts of financial support that have been distributed to a few individual schemes.
In some areas, very enthusiastic groups of people have been succeeding despite the fact that they are getting little or no financial support.
The funding that has been allocated was intended as a means of helping those schemes that were ready to hit the ground running, but some have not managed to make as much progress as people thought they would.
In these cases I think the Government need to consider whether or not they are going to reallocate funding to those areas that are proving their worth.
Nobody expects the Government to solve all our problems from Whitehall, quite the opposite actually. We’re ready and willing to do things for ourselves, but we need Government doing everything they can to support us too.