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Friday, January 19, 2007

MPs debate 'ghost towns' bill

A bid to give councils more power to save shops and reverse the decline of "ghost towns", is being debated by MPs. Tory backbencher Nick Hurd said that over a decade towns had suffered a "remorseless decline" losing local post offices, grocers, shops and banks. His Sustainable Communities Bill aims to give them more power to reverse it and challenge government spending decision in their area. The bill would give councils the right to demand a breakdown of government spending on their services, and to go back to ministers with their own alternative allocations. It would also require ministers to give the issue of promoting "sustainable communities" more priority, and to come up with a long-term plan to do so, in co-operation with local people. Mr Hurd said the bill, which is on its Second Reading in the House of Commons, would give "real teeth" to local agreements. He told MPs many towns and villages felt "the guts of their communities have been ripped out" and not enough was being done to stop it. "In the last decade we've lost a fifth of our post office network, a quarter of our local grocery stores, a quarter of our bank branch network and over 30,000 independent community retailers."