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‘There are far too many betting shops and fried chicken shops on our high streets’

13:44 06 February 2013

Lyn Brown MP for West Ham

Lyn Brown MP for West Ham

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Lyn Brown Labour MP for West Ham

I am grateful for enquiries and concern about the ‘disappearance’ of my column. As you see, it’s still here and, like me, in robust good health.

My column and Stephen’s have joined a rota with Sir Robin Wales and MPs from Tower Hamlets. I will give greater attention to my website, (address below), and increase the number of my coffee mornings. So, look out for an invitation.

My thanks for your support over my recent demand that government takes action over the proliferation of betting shops on our High Streets. They are a blight.

Newham is lucky to have good, thriving, local, independent businesses: Stratford’s Café Mondo, the fabulous Newham Bookshop, with a great selection and wonderfully knowledgeable staff close to West Ham United, and the yummy BJ’s Pie & Mash Shop on Barking Road. Let’s not forget Green Street’s classy, extraordinary fashion and jewellery shops.

We are lucky. We still have independent shops in our borough, but there are far too many betting and fried chicken shops. Barmy government planning laws prevent the council from stopping them.

Would you believe that betting shops are classified as a financial and professional service? When a bank or estate agent shuts up shop, bookies can waltz right in. It’s a nonsense and needs to change.

It seems counter-intuitive for betting shops to choose Newham, with its high unemployment and many families struggling to make ends meet. In the 50 parliamentary constituencies with the highest rates of unemployment, there are 1,251 betting shops. The 50 constituencies with the lowest unemployment have only 287.

The betting industry, like any other, always moves to where demand is high, chasing maximum profits. I can understand why more and more people turn to betting shops in a doomed and desperate attempt to pull themselves out of economic hardship. The gambling industry is selling empty dreams.

I want fewer betting shops on our streets, but that won’t happen overnight. I shall continue to press the government to change planning rules so our borough gets more Newham Bookshops and no more Newham bookies.

You can contact me at www.lynbrown.org.uk, email brownl@parliament.uk, or phone 020 7219 6999.

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