by Ian Shires on 24 May, 2018
Walsall’s Marks and Spencer’s is just one of a hundred stores in the chain across the country to be threatened with closure, there are others across the West Midlands.
Comments made by M&S’s CEO when he announced the closures do not bode well for any of the stores based in a High Street location. He made reference to the viability of “old town centres” and was looking towards the out of town retail parks as the future for the business.
“This is not good news for high streets in general” said Liberal Democrat group Leader and the new Chair of the Environment and Economy Scrutiny Panel on Walsall Council.
We were in favour of the move to buy the Saddlers Centre in the town. We agreed with Labour that if we were to stop the decline of town centre retail we needed to take the opportunity to link regeneration through from the train station, the Saddlers to the Art Gallery and on to the waterfront area. Left to market forces as the Tories seem to want to do would be even worse and we could be looking at another “Old Square” situation, there only a hand full of shops are left open.
“This is not just a Walsall problem, it applies to many High Streets across the country and I think that time would be better spent on looking for a solution instead of recriminations” said Cllr Shires.
A suggestion has been made by another senior Councillor Doug James (Lab Darlaston South) that a task force be set up between the West Midlands Combined Authority, The Black Country LEP and Walsall Council to look for ways to breathe more life into town centre retail. “I think that this suggestion has merit” said Cllr Shires
“We could bring in the high profile of the West Midland’s Metro Mayor Andy Street to champion the cause. Walsall North’s Tory MP Eddie Hughes might serve the town better by working with the council he once served on as Councillor for Streetly before becoming an MP instead of spreading negativity. “He should use his influence down in Westminster to highlight the difficulties that exist outside of London and the South East when it comes to the effects of increasing poverty due to continuing austerity measures by his Government.”1 Comment