Wednesday September 18,2013 : LIB DEMS THREATEN TO RESTRICT BETTING SHOPS GROWTH
It's political party conference time for the Lib Dems, and that means some posturing.
Political party conferences always generate plenty of political posturing, but have to be monitored as possible harbingers of party policy in the future, so this week's Liberal Democrat proceedings in Glasgow are being watched carefully.
Among the many resolutions being debated was one covering restrictions on the proliferation of betting shops on Britain’s High Streets, which has been passed.
Ealing councillor Jon Bell led the charge, blaming the former government of the Labour Party for the explosion in the number of High Street bookmakers in his West London borough.
He told delegates at the conference that there were 83 betting shops in Ealing, 18 of them situated in the constituency’s most deprived areas.
"Ealing local party submitted this motion because the recent proliferation of betting shops is causing problems for local residents," he told the conference on Tuesday.
He was especially critical of the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in retail betting shops, saying:
"[Former Labour prime minister] Tony Blair's Gambling Act, which allowed these machines and made it practically impossible for councils to control them, limited each betting shop to four terminals, so the operator simply opens more shops with a maximum of four machines each," he said.
Bell was supported by Communities Minister Don Foster, who said the "high stake” machines were collectively taking more than GBP 1 billion a week, and urged the Lib Dem party to act, recommending that the party give local councils the power to "address the concerns of community leaders" throughout Britain.
"By supporting this notion today we are sending a very strong signal: that Liberal Democrats will give councils the power to address the concerns of local communities caused by this problem of clustering of betting shops," Foster concluded.
The Liberal Democrats are in a coalition government with the Conservative Party in Britain, and the two parties are on occasion uneasy bedfellows – especially at conference time when political leaders are playing to their respective party audiences.