UK Politics

Ed Miliband promises councils powers to ban payday lenders

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Media captionEd Miliband: "Let's give councils back control of their high streets."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has promised to give councils more powers to ban payday lenders, pawnbrokers and bookmakers from town centres.

Launching his party's local election campaign, he said it would "stand up for those without power" and criticised "extortionate" rates of interest.

Mr Miliband accused ministers of "not standing up to powerful interests".

The elections, involving 34 councils in England and one in Wales, will take place on 2 May.

There will also be two mayoral polls.

'Real power'

Speaking in Ipswich, Mr Miliband reiterated his pledge to make Labour a "one-nation" party, improving living standards while reducing state borrowing.

He said: "Everyone here today knows how important our high streets are to towns and cities across Britain. They're not just the places we go to shop. They're the heart of our local communities. But today our high streets are changing - and often not for the better.

"Take an example. One of the fastest growing businesses on the high street are the payday lenders, sometimes charging extortionate rates of interest. In hard times, it is no wonder people turn to them. But often they just engulf people in debts that they cannot pay. Interest rates of over 1000%."

He added that many councils felt they did not "have the real power to stand up for local people", adding: "Currently if a bank branch closes down, there's nothing a council can do if a payday loan shop wants to move in and open up in the same place. Even if there's another lender next door. That can't be right."

Mr Miliband pledged to create "powers so that local people can decide, through their councils, what shops can and can't open up. This will be different in local areas, local solutions to local problems. But it means that when they want, the people in our towns and cities can say: 'No. Enough is enough.'"

The Labour leader said the policy pledge would be one of five key election messages.

The others were: cancelling the cut to the 50% income tax rate for top earners; introducing a mansion tax on properties worth over £2m to fund a return of the 10p tax rate; reforming the energy market; and cracking down on rising train fares.

Mr Miliband said Labour offered a "different vision" and described the coalition's changes to the benefits system as "cruel".

He also criticised George Osborne over his recent remarks on the Mick Philpott case, in which the chancellor said it was right to question whether the state should "subsidise" those with similar lifestyles to the unemployed man found guilty last week of the manslaughter of six of his children.

Mr Miliband accused Mr Osborne of wanting to "exploit the deaths of six children to try and make a political point", adding: "What I'm not going to do is engage in nasty, divisive politics."

The government set up a £10m High Street Innovation Fund following a review by retail expert Mary Portas on how to re-energise England's high streets.

The money has been awarded to 100 local authorities, although there have been concerns that the money has not yet been spent by councils.

The government says it has also given local authorities new powers to offer business rate discounts and has simplified planning restrictions to allow new businesses to set up in town centres.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has also launched his party's campaign.

Speaking in Cornwall, said a vote for the Lib Dems was "a vote for a party which - wherever we're in power - does its best to spread the burden of austerity fairly, investing in jobs and help for hard-pressed families".

The Conservatives will launch their campaign next week.

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