The Labour Government should have taken more notice of people’s concerns about the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs and betting shops in high streets, Ed Miliband has said.
The former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who is running for the Labour leadership, said he would want residents who had concerns over the clubs to have more power to challenge them.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph he said: “People have views about their town centres and whether it should be the lap-dancing club followed by the betting shop, followed by the late-night bar.”
Mr Miliband continued: “For too long, the character of local communities has been changed.
“Social democrats do want to conserve some things. We weren’t willing enough to say so.”
The MP for Doncaster North was asked whether he would change the law to enable citizens to ban unwanted businesses. Mr Miliband replied: “Yes. People don’t think the market should run riot in their communities.”
In February figures showed lap-dancing clubs, casinos and betting shops were increasing in number in the UK, while the number of libraries and schools was falling.
The number of lap-dancing clubs had increased from 24 to 300 since 1997, but the number of public libraries shrunk by six per cent in the same period.
The statistics were described as a modern day Domesday Book, with critics saying they showed the “decline of traditional Britain”.
Labour’s 2003 Licensing Act put lap-dancing clubs in the same category as cafes and bars, which made it hard for local residents to object to licence applications.
But the last Government eventually changed its approach and in April local councils were given more power to act when residents complain about lap-dancing clubs.
The clubs now fall under sex establishment licensing rules, making it easier for local residents to say they are “inappropriate”.
The venues must apply to local councils for a licence, but an application can now be rejected on grounds of crime, nuisance or public safety – but not for moral reasons.
Richard Kemp, deputy chairman of the Local Government Association commented at the time: “The trouble is people have been coming along to councils and councillors and saying: ‘This is disgraceful what are you doing about it?’
“And the answer until today has been nothing, because we’ve had no powers to act.
“Now we’re able to take firm action against lap-dancing.”