20 April 2016
Mayoral candidates promise churches they’ll crack down on "predatory" betting shops
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative candidate for London mayor, pledged he would back a crackdown on betting shops proliferating on the capital's high streets.
Speaking to hundreds of Christians at the church hustings organised by the Evangelical Alliance and Churches Together in South London, he called for new powers for councils to be able to stop new betting shops opening up and admitted to voting against his government on the issue.
Goldsmith said: "I believe we need a change in the law. I do believe that local authorities need to be able to take the decisions that they want to take. No local authority wants to see their high street dominated by betting shops, by payday lenders, by premises they don't believe enhance their local community." He went on to say: "We need a leap towards localism."
At the church hustings - hosted at Kensington Temple - there was an outbreak of consensus among the candidates which saw agreement that betting shops and payday lenders were a blight on local high streets.
Caroline Pidgeon, standing for the Liberal Democrats, noted that when in coalition government, her party had helped introduce more hurdles for betting shops wanting to open.
Sadiq Khan, Labour candidate, commented: "You don't see these betting shops in the more affluent areas of London and there's a reason why."
He went on to talk about his own objection to licensing betting shops in his Tooting constituency, saying: "I supported moves to limit the amounts and to increase the powers to stop them opening and I was disappointed they didn't go through."
Speaking more broadly about regenerating high streets, Khan said: "I enjoy my cheeky Nandos but there's a time and a place for fast food chicken shops. What we've got to do is make sure if the market isn't working - and the market isn't working - not to be afraid to interfere in the market, and as mayor I would interfere with this laissez-faire approach to our high streets to stop what is a scourge on the most vulnerable in London."
Along with Sian Berry standing for the Green Party and UKIP's London assembly candidate David Kurten, the candidates addressed a wide range of subjects of concern to Christians in the capital, from housing and homelessness to protecting London from terrorism.
Addressing the candidates at the start of the event, the Rt Rev Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, told them the Church of England has three times as many outlets in the capital as Starbucks does.
He went on to say that churchgoers punch above their weight: "The Church in London is unique both nationally and globally. Nationally it is bucking the trend … here in London the Church is growing. And we're probably unique as the only capital city where the established Church is growing and not declining.
"We're rooted in communities right the way across London. The Church is one of the major sources of volunteer working in the UK. In fact across the UK it's estimated 1.4 million people volunteer around 115 million hours of volunteer time."
Tel: 07766 444 650
Notes to Editors
Audio and photos from the event are available on request.
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.
Churches Together in South London
Churches Together in South London (CTSL) represents over 50 local ecumenical networks across 10 London boroughs south of the River Thames, and is one of 49 intermediary bodies around the country for Churches Together in England.