PROTECTION for local businesses against multinationals was a hot topic at a pre-election hustings debate last night.
Representatives from four political groups in the city discussed policies at the event organised by Portsmouth Climate Action Network, and all four pledged to lobby the Government and use city council planning rules to stop supermarkets crowding out local firms.
Lib Dem Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘There is a high concentration of power in the hands of just a few retailers. It’s an enormous problem but people go to supermarkets.
‘We have to have greater control over the market because some supermarket policies damage the environment and they are able to rely on size to price smaller competitors out of the market. We have to make sure they can no longer do this.’
Cosham Labour candidate Graham Heaney said: ‘We must make sure we use planning policy properly to stop supermarkets swamping our city and we also need the Government to step in with new policies to reduce their dominance. I think the council should offer smaller local businesses assistance with things like marketing and customer awareness.’
John Pickett, a Trade Union Socialist Coalition candidate for Fratton, said: ‘We have to stand up to multinational corporations. We need to use policies we have and develop new ones to stop big business from continually squeezing and making life hard for local companies, which produce goods in a more sustainable and equitable way.’
Tim Dawes, the Green Party local co-ordinator said: ‘There are measures that will help the environment and local businesses including taxing free parking schemes from supermarkets.
‘This city has some good independent areas but they are comparatively small. One thing we can do in terms of food production and sales is to bring back the market garden. In cities across continental Europe food is grown and sold locally. It’s only the US and the UK that have given up so much to supermarkets.’
The Conservatives had no presence at the hustings, having told the organisers they did not believe it was an appropriate forum.
The city’s public transport was also discussed. Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the Government had to put pressure on bus companies to use their profits to provide extra services, while Mr Pickett said he believed public transport could be free in a ‘properly-run’ economy.
Mr Dawes said the city’s major transport problem was not having an overarching public transport policy. Mr Heaney said he would push for a move away from private companies running public transport. He said: ‘It doesn’t work.’