Empty shops 'spin is letting down town centres'

An MP has attacked a town centre management organisation for being more concerned with PR spin than filling vacant shops and tackling the high street malaise.

Rochdale's Simon Danczuk has accused the Association of Town Centre Management, a non-profit organisation, of trying to "massage" empty shop figures at a time when nearly one in seven stores are vacant.

According to an email seen by The Independent, ATCM contacted its 800 town teams on Monday "strongly recommending" they release more favourable research data on vacancy rates to local media before what it described as a "controversial" report from the Local Data Company the next day.

The revelation follows the camera specialist Jessops, the entertainment chain HMV, the DVD rental firm Blockbuster and fashion retailer Republic collapsing into administration this year.

Mr Danczuk alleged that ATCM is trying to "orchestrate a propaganda campaign to deny the scale of the problem on the high street", claiming that town centre bosses often spent more time denying there was a problem than trying to fill empty shops.

LDC found that 14.2 per cent of Britain's town centre shops were empty but the ATCM's press release used the 10.9 per cent vacancy figure for the UK provided by this month's British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

Mr Danczuk accused ATCM of "dancing to the Government's tune and rather than getting to grips with problems they want to play them down". He added: "Perhaps they would like to tell the 15,000 people whose retail jobs have been affected since Christmas that things are not as bad as they seem."

But Martin Blackwell, ATCM's chief executive, hit back yesterday by saying it is "non-political and we don't dance to anyone's tune". He explained it sent the email this week as there was a substantial discrepancy between LDC's figures and those of the BRC and Springboard survey for a small number of towns, such as Dudley, and it had concerns the data could "stifle investment" in these areas. For instance, LDC calculated that 32.4 per cent of shops are vacant in Dudley, compared with 18 per cent estimated by the other two firms.

Mr Blackwell said: "The problems for the high street are desperate. There are deep-seated issues to be tackled and we are committed to tackling them."

The Government is poised to award a two-year grant for high street support services worth £1.3m before the end of this month, with ATCM one of the parties bidding.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory