Ed Miliband Pledges Labour Will Crack Down On Pay Day Lenders And Betting Shops

A Labour government will give councils new powers to stop pay day lenders and betting shops swamping high streets, Ed Miliband pledged on Monday.

Businesses that do well out of hard times are springing up in place of shops, restaurants and banks but town halls are almost powerless to act, the party leader warned.

He set out Labour proposals to change planning laws so councils could refuse permission for certain businesses, including payday lenders that "engulf" people in debt.

At the start of a three day, 10 town tour to launch Labour's local election campaign, Miliband said: "Everyone here today knows how important our high streets are to towns and cities across Britain. They're not just the places we go to shop. They're the heart of our local communities. But today our high streets are changing -and often not for the better.

"Take an example. One of the fastest growing businesses on the high street are the payday lenders, sometimes charging extortionate rates of interest. In hard times, it is no wonder people turn to them. But often they just engulf people in debts that they cannot pay. Interest rates of over 1000%.

"Too many councils are finding that they don't have the real power to stand up for local people. But that is what politics is supposed to be about: standing up for those without power and giving power to them. Currently if a bank branch closes down, there's nothing a council can do if a payday loan shop wants to move in and open up in the same place. Even if there's another lender next door. That can't be right."

The party plans to create an additional umbrella planning class that would let local authorities put some premises in a separate category. The move would allow councils to then block applications that meant a change of use for a property.

Miliband said that the new powers will effectively allow local people what shops are allowed to open up and where.

"This will be different in local areas, local solutions to local problems," he added at the election launch in Ipswich.

"But it means that when they want, the people in our towns and cities can say: 'No. Enough is enough'.

"David Cameron's government used to say it would give people that kind of chance. But it hasn't delivered. In fact, it is moving in the opposite direction. Not standing up to the powerful interests. So it is up to us to give local people a proper chance to protect the places that they love. To turn their high streets around."

Miliband, who will travel to Cambridge and Stevenage, later today is focusing on key target areas for the next general election, including places where Labour has never controlled the local authority, as well as towns where the party hopes to win council seats.

He added: "In this local election campaign we have five clear ways in which we would make different choices from this government. Different priorities about who we stand up for, and different ideas about who to stand up to.

"We should cancel the millionaires' tax cut, and protect the tax credits that make work pay for working people.

"We should introduce a mansion tax on houses worth over ÂŁ2 million to help bring back a 10p starting rate for income tax and make work pay for millions.

"We should stop the big energy company rip-offs, with proper reform of our energy market to break the stranglehold of the big six energy companies.

"We should crack down on train companies putting the price of the daily commute further and further out of reach.

"And we should give every council the power to control the payday loan companies opening up on our high streets."

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "It's frightening that more and more payday lenders are setting up shop on the high street. But the problem is much bigger online with the internet awash with websites promising to deliver a loan within minutes - prompting some councils and universities to ban access to payday loan websites from their computers.

"It is very easy to take out a payday loan but often extremely difficult to pay it back as debts spiral out of control. Predatory lenders are sending people into debt as they hand out loans to those who can't afford them and drain bank accounts to recoup loans leaving no money left to buy food or pay to get to work.

"Payday lenders need to stop breaking the rules and stick to their pledge to treat people fairly."