26/02/2012 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss present political news and debate, including former defence secretray Liam Fox in his first major television interview since leaving the cabinet.

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And in the North East and Cumbria - one third of shops are empty in


some of our town centres. Are they in terminal decline or can


we breathe new life into our neglected High Streets? That's at


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2027 seconds


Hello and a warm welcome to your local part of the show.


Coming up - 46,000 houses and flats in the North East and Cumbria are


standing empty. What will it take to bring them back into use?


And here in the studio, talking housing, High Streets and the


latest council cuts are my guests, the Easington MP Grahame Morris and


Yorkshire Euro-MP Timothy Kirkhope. Firstly. Are our High Streets in


terminal decline? Well, walk around Stockton and you will find one


quarter of all the shops there are empty.


It is not much better in Hartlepool or Sunderland.


Retail expert Mary Portas says our High Streets are failing. But she


believes there is potential to reinvent them with cheaper town


centre parking, more open-air markets and fewer regulations on


traders. Now the government is offering a


share of �1 million for towns that want to transform their high


streets. They bought in West Cumbria. With its heritage, the


town has plenty of tourist attractions, but the town has seen


better days. Below it rather run- down and tired. We used to have a


gentleman's outfitters, a dress shop a hat shop and a lot of little


bakers and things like that. There used to be a Woolworths. They were


roll replaced by pounds shops and charity shops or are now lying


empty. The local Bowl shop has been trading in the same location for 60


years and she thinks it will take more than any Cover to save the


highest rate. It is all about boosting up the local economy. He


need to have jobs in the area, so that people have money to spend.


But town is hoping to get a part of this grant from the retail scheme


suggested by a Mary Porter us. It would be absolutely fantastic for


the town to win this bed. It would really work. If people would listen


and take not and do what we're told, basically. The figure as making


clear something has to be done. Nearly one-third of the shops here


are empty, making it one of the worst places in Cumbria. Stockton


has a quarter of the shops lying empty and the pictures only


slightly better in Sunderland and Gateshead. For a many, they keep


reason the highest rate is feeling is the unstoppable rise of out-of-


town shopping. They believe the massive supermarkets, with their


free parking and cheaper prices are simply unstoppable. You simply have


to stop out-of-town developments happening it unless there is


special developments, you have to make sure there is local parking


available and you have to simply have to do it. There is not when


just saying that the market will simply gawp. Day be feels there is


a future, but feels a winning the bed would be a big boost for the


town. Well, it is not just traders who


are losing out. Many of our local authorities own shops and shopping


centres which they rent out. In Newcastle, for example, the council


owns some 250 retail premises. While in Carlisle, the city council


owns the Lanes Shopping Centre. Income is down �277,000 pounds a


year. It is not meeting the expectations, but I think in coming


years at will. We have a duty of care to the customers of Carlisle


and tourists to make sure that this place can continues as it is and


improves. Let us talk about this plan to rate regenerate the high


streets. When I very much welcome the report and the recommendations


and it, I do think that in this sense it is the sticking plaster on


a major heart attack, because the real problem is the general


economic conditions. In Seaforth for example, there was 1,000 job


losses and the increase in value added tax also counts. But a cannot


surely be recent economic conditions solely to blame? I think


the coalition government has the obligation here. They said they


were going to bring any level playing field between the larger


retailers and the smaller retailers. The general economic policy, not


least the increase in value added tax, has had a catastrophic effect


on purchasing power by highest rate shops. Now, we heard about out of


town shopping centres, supermarkets. Well, there is our between


retailers, and that does not matter whether they are big or small. We


do want to take on some of the recommendations. In any town centre,


�100,000 a surely not small beer? My will, not a tall, but what I


would like to see is an extension of this, we need to look at


planning laws. If you want to build a supermarket somewhere, perhaps


you need to be doing something to do something back into the local


town. One of the critics of the planning policy would say that


you're making it harder to fight out of town shopping developments?


My all, not at all. When you're involved in doing this, we all of


us have a responsibility for this, it is not simply that government


has to say this, we have to make it attractive for people to actually


stay within towns, with an their main streets, within the rural area


as well as the supermarkets. We or this they cannot recreate the high


streets of the 1960s, but is it simply money getting pushed at this


that will solve the problem? Labour Party has come up with the


four-point plan and an initiative for empty shops, where by these


decrepit looking France would not be seen. Is that not a bit like the


sticking plaster? No, we're talking about using these premises for


other uses, such as learning centres and the likes of that.


certainly think keeping shops open is very important and we are


certainly looking at rates and things like that to give breaks for


places that are in difficulties. More than 100,000 people are stuck


on the waiting list for social housing in the North East and


Cumbria. And the government wants to do something about it with its


new Affordable Homes Programme. Yet critics say the level of funding


falls well short of what is needed. We will be talking about that in a


moment. But first, what about another solution - filling some of


the thousands of homes standing empty? They read decade, derelict


and abandoned this is part of Newcastle's Byker estate. Now it is


home again, with people moving in again a few weeks ago. I was just


laughing all the time. People were staring at me! I just love the


place. Some under his police to get a home at a price she can afford.


To be able to get a new place at the price we are renting is


virtually impossible. The says the success story of a empty house been


restored and put to use. But it is in the minority. There are 46,000


empty private premises in the North East. Bringing them back into use


is the priority. There are virtually no empty council houses.


That is a real challenge. We have got 9,000 people on our waiting


list, 300 of these on priority need. But we want to bring back empty


properties into use in this is an ideal example found we have been


able to G do that. Well, let us talk now to Monica


Burns from the National Housing Federation in the North East, which


represents housing associations. Now, what else has been going on


As you said in your report, a lot of these houses are privately


warned that summer and in any area where there is little demand for


housing, others have been handed down to children, who have decided


not to sell. There is an array of different reasons as to why the RMT.


So what can be done about this, particularly the house is in


private hands? Well, the local authorities are doing a lot to see


if they can pick these houses back into use. It is a matter of looking


at each individual case and seen what can be done. The alternative


is of course building new affordable housing. They have set


very ambitious targets - are they going to happen? We are doing well,


but we have had the huge decrease in the grant allowance. It has been


cut by nearly two thirds and a one allocation for the next four years


is �45 million and with that we're meant to build 3,000 homes. They


have said you can go up the 80 % of the rent and value? Will that be


helpful? Not particularly. The Raleigh in some areas we can do


that. We would like to see a lot of different ideas Brotton. Timothy,


the government talks a good game about this. But the figures say


that this is the lowest number of homes actually built since the


second world war. A I do think you build houses are very important. So


why are they not happening? We will, we have a lot of economic problems


at the moment. But what about these budget cuts? The empty properties


in England, that is an awful lot of properties. They are being built,


but not being properly utilised. I think that is the priority. Apart


from you build houses, it is important that these houses get


renovated and occupied. As it said, where they are located is often


important. The trouble is that there are often in places where


people do not want to live, which is part of the problem. But surely


cutting the funding is not going to help? He yes, I appreciate that. We


know what we could not pay as much as we used to. Bobby a pity a lot


of money into the new homes bonus. We are going to try and help local


government in particular to bring housing stock back into use and I


think that is the sensible approach. The Labour Party record on this it


was very poor at as well? Yes, the labours record on this left a lot


to be desired, but the coalition government have not dealt with us


at all. There is a growing crisis in the lack of affordable housing


or houses to rent. In our region, there are 90,000 families on a or


waiting list. What is the solution? Park of the solution is, for


example, the Sunderland local housing association has come up


with a model which they have presented to the Housing Minister,


providing the king get the funding from the banks and financial


institutions, to provide low-cost housing for people to buy from rent.


We were due see one-off tax on bankers bonuses to build 25,000


euros and put 100,000 people back to work. Bill, the bank bonuses


going to go everywhere isn't it? The reality is that we do want to


work together responsibly. If I have no problem with new-build or


some of the points about having gradual purchases of one kind of


another and getting financial institutions involved is very


important. But at the end of the day, the empty properties - 300,000


- we really have to bring them back into use. Now, what else has been


going on this week Hmm. I know let us get that nice Mark Denten to


tell us. Here he is with the Week in 60 Seconds. Do it and County


Council will decide next week whether to close 14 village halls


and community centres any cost- saving move and persuade local


people to take over 100 others. Teenagers without a job will get


extra help from the Government's Youth contract. More than �8


million will be spent in the North East. Jarrow MP has classed with


the government in the Commons over the NHS shake-up. People who work


in the National Health sell this see this for what it is - if a


Conservative plan for privatisation. Annie sports centre has opened at


University of Durham. And the campaign to bring back the name of


St James' Park. The Parliament motion was put forward by the


Gateshead N P asked Newcastle's owners to think again about calling


it the sports director arena. We are not changing the name of our


were short! No, all this about cuts in police. The impact of this is


going to come for years to come? yes, this is going to be a hard


time for the police force and local authorities. Some can say they can


manage. She surely she has to say something like that? Well, not


necessarily. I mean, Durham has just built a bus shelter at great


expense for a writ which has not been used for years. Look at the


community centres mentioned there. It says it is going to use the


money for absolute priority projects. He is, they are


projecting that between now and 2017 they will lose 40 % of their


spending power. It is this North- South divide. Is the Government's


support for local government expenditure fair? It seems as if


the authorities in the North East, particularly mind which have the


biggest problems with deprivation, are shouldering the biggest of the


burden when it comes to cuts. The figure as to suggest that these


other councils to set do it better. It is appalling to suggest there is


anything political and this. Life does not work like that. What has


to happen is that there has to be more efficiency. There has to be


cost cutting because we're in a difficult economic situation and I


am afraid this has been borne by everybody. I do not agree that


we're taking a major burden there. Everyone in the country is


suffering from the last government. I am sure will disagree.


Unfortunately, we do not have time to talk to him about that!


And that is about it from us. We are back half and hour earlier next


Sunday, at 11.30am, when my guests will be the MP for Redcar Ian


Swales and Newcastle's Chi Onwurah. In the meantime, do not forget my


blog. That is at bbc.co.uk/richardmoss. There is


more on Mary Portas and Maryport there.


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