Tuesday, 30 August 2016

FOBTs and why I raised a Point of Order before recess

On the penultimate day of Parliament, I raised the issue of Tory inaction over Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Under the Sustainable Communities Act (SCA), local authorities and groups submit proposals which central government can then act upon. It enables communities to work together to effect change in their local areas.

But the Government failed to meet its obligations under the Act when Newham Council and 93 other councils submitted a proposal calling for local discretion to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2. By failing to hold a consultation within the required time period, the Government ignored communities across the country; more specifically, it ignored councils which represent a total population of nearly 23,000,000 (43% of England’s population).

The Government’s consultation should have been concluded by 14th July. But it’s nowhere near being completed.

My point of order on 21st July came when the Tories, in typical fashion, rushed out some 21 ministerial statements before MPs left for recess. Not one of these statements addressed the issue of FOBTs.

It seems that only one preliminary meeting has taken place between the Department for Culture, Media, and Sports and the Local Government Association. Moreover, the Minister responsible has failed to update Parliament on this meeting – an obligation implicit in the conditions of the Act. The 6-month period of cooperation therefore ended on 14th July with the Government failing to hold negotiations, failing to meet with the LGA, and failing to respond to the biggest ever submission under the Act.

The Tories have never been serious about devolved decision making. When it comes down to addressing local concerns, they have ignored local authorities, like Hyndburn Council, which have signed the submission due to concerns about the proliferation of on-street betting outlets on our high streets.

The increase in on-street betting outlets worries many residents because it affects the vitality of high streets and encourages anti-social behaviour. Only effective regulation can protect the most vulnerable from exploitation.

Instead of ignoring local communities across the country, the Government needs to start taking its duties seriously.