Cat Smith column: Our retailers need support... from all of us

The empty Store 21 store on Lord Street, Fleetwood
The empty Store 21 store on Lord Street, Fleetwood

The Fleetwood MP says the port's retailers need backing from the council, the Government - and the public

You may remember I mentioned last week about supporting the Fleetwood market traders in their request for a built-in permanent canopy.

The traders pay rent all year round, but are only able to predictably trade for six months of the year. The rest of the time they’re dependent on the weather conditions. For health and safety protection they’re not allowed to use pop-up gazebos in windy conditions, and desperately need a permanent canopy so they reliably bring in an income for them and their families.

I wrote to Wyre Borough Council on their behalf and they have replied to say there is a limited budget, and to erect a full built-in permanent canopy would require planning permission and would use up most of the budget for the rest of the market. The council says it will soon set up a Consultation Stall within the market that will give updates on all the projects taking place. I urge traders and customers to visit the stall and impress upon the council the importance and long-term benefits to both traders and shoppers of having a permanent outdoor space.

I’ve once again written to Wyre Borough Council asking them for an update on the future of Store 21 on Lord Street. I know many of you agree that it’s an absolute eyesore, and whoever owns it should be shamed into taking immediate action to (if nothing else) repair the frontage.

It’s very disappointing the council has failed to take action and left the high street looking so shabby. It’s not fair on other traders who are trying to make a living near to a building that has been used for growing cannabis and gets targeted by vandals. You don’t see buildings left in this state in Cleveleys, Garstang or Poulton, so why do Tory councillors think it’s reasonable for Fleetwood? Its nearly a year now since I first wrote to the council raising this issue and still nothing has been done. It really does seem like Fleetwood is the poor relation when it comes to Wyre Borough Council’s priorities.

The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP) has warned the Post Office network is close to collapse with thousands of branches at risk of closure over the next 12 months. Fantastic.

Fleetwood and Knott End have now lost all or almost all of their banks. Earlier this year, the only Post Office in rural Pilling closed. For many, the only banking facilities available are at the Post Office. However, more than a fifth of sub-postmasters plan on resigning or downsizing because of increasing financial pressures. The resulting loss of services, particularly in rural areas, will have catastrophic implications for local communities.

Our post offices are a vital lifeline for many people. Post offices run by sub-postmasters ensure that Post Office services are widely and easily accessible for millions of us. Increasing pressure on sub-postmasters and the significant personal financial strain they endure is unfair considering the vital services, including banking provision, they provide in their branches.

Around 1,000 branches are currently listed as closed, with two-thirds of closures being caused by the resignation of the sub-postmaster. A further 2,500 are at risk of closure over the next months, given that 22 per cent of sub-postmasters say they are planning to close or downsize their office in the next 12 months. The Government must act now and ensure the long-term future of local post offices is secured.

On a happier note I hope those of you who aren’t having to work this weekend enjoy the forthcoming Bank Holiday! Fingers crossed the weather is nice for us all.