‘We do want to come back – it is something we would consider’
Labour leader Ed Miliband has insisted he remains committed to Blackpool and wants to bring the party’s full conference back to the resort after a wait of more than 10 years.
Mr Miliband, speaking to The Gazette before the North West Labour Party Conference held in the town’s Imperial Hotel at the weekend, said he was “deeply committed” to the return of the flagship event, last held here in 2002.
He said: “We do want to come back – it is obviously something we would consider when we think about our conferences. We do want to come back.
“It is great to be here for the North West Conference and I know this is really important to people in Blackpool that it does come back and we will do our best to do so.
“I want it to happen at some point, discussions are ongoing. We are deeply committed to Blackpool and that is why we have the North West Conference here and had it here for a number of years now. We do want to come back.”
Mr Miliband was in the resort to talk about plans for his party’s 2015 manifesto, which, if elected, could include giving city and county regions more power over their public transport networks and to introduce an English Devolution Act, allowing people more power over their country, in a similar fashion to Scotland and Wales.
He added: “On the bus service issue you have Blackpool Transport which plays its role in the centre of Blackpool, but you have other companies, other private bus companies that are serving Blackpool serving people beyond Blackpool and obviously they would come under a system of regulation we are talking about.
“On the rail issue there are things which need to be looked at and we have set out a plan to improve rolling stock and also fares – we have to make sure we have a proper cap on fares and also make sure this recovery works for most people.”
As well as talking about plans ahead, Mr Miliband said he wanted more bobbies on the beat – which would be funded by the scrapping of police and crime commissioners (PCCs), as well as a tougher stance on anti-social behaviour to curb binge drinking, both big issues in the resort.
“The one very specific thing we would do is scrap PCCs and use the resources we would save to put front line officers on the beat – there has been a massive cut in front line officers – we have seen massive bureaucracy in these PCCs, something most people did not want,” he added.
“People did not vote in the PCC elections. We should transfer resources into front line officers.”
On issue of bringing in a minimum price for alcohol, in a bid to curb anti-social behaviour, Mr Milliband said: “I am not in favour of minimum pricing – I think we need better rules on anti-social behaviour – the Government came in and watered them down.
“I think that is deeply regrettable to people. We need a tougher stance on anti-social behaviour – when that type of behaviour blights towns it is unfair on people and we have to do something about it.”
The conference, at The Imperial, saw anti-fracking protesters turn up outside waving banners and placards.
Mr Miliband said he had received a warm welcome in the town, adding: “It is great to be here and incredibly friendly and I love coming here.”
Proposals by Mr Miliband to devolve more powers to the regions were welcomed by Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden.
Mr Miliband’s plans should he win the next General Election would involve giving towns more control over their public transport networks.
Mr Marsden, who is also a shadow transport minister, said: “I am delighted Ed Miliband and the Labour party is spelling out such a bold agenda for giving local people more control over their buses and tram network.
“This is a particular priority and it’s not just about transport, it’s also about bringing in skills. In the case of Blackpool and the surrounding area it would be a significant boost in terms of controlling fares and delivering more frequent and more reliable services.
“At the moment we have very fragmented bus services across Lancashire.”