Why is Castletown’s MEA shop open part-time?

SHOP CONCERN: Manx Electricity Authority showroom in Castletown. PHOTO: John Maddrell (JM120112-19).

SHOP CONCERN: Manx Electricity Authority showroom in Castletown. PHOTO: John Maddrell (JM120112-19).

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THE Manx Electricity Authority shop in Castletown opens three days a week – and commissioner Colin Leather wanted to know why at last week’s board meeting.

He said the MEA Castletown shop is the only one of the five island-wide to be open part-time and was the only one to be closed on Christmas Eve.

In an outline of his points, he urged the local authority to write to Eddie Lowey, the chairman of the MEA, to ask why the town is treated differently to all others.

Mr Leather said they should ask if the MEA hold a commitment to retaining a shop in the town.

Only opening part-time is to the detriment of the town’s retailing sector, he wrote. Two independent reports, one for the MEA and another for the former DTI (Department of Trade and Industry, now Department of Economic Development) advised of the importance of retaining MEA shops in the outer community retailing sectors.

He asked whether the MEA takes ‘into account the substantial investment that has taken place, which is ongoing, in regenerating Castletown’s centre’.

He urged the MEA to join forces with the post office – or another government department – to provide a joint facility in the town, so reducing costs and providing a better service. He wrote that he understood the post office would support such a proposal.

Mr Leather’s proposals were not discussed last week. When he raised the issue he was met with what he described as a ‘totally defeatist’ attitude. Speaking afterwards he said: ‘Everybody said it was a fait accompli: they will shut the shop and [referring to a recent planning application] PC World or Currys will come to Spring Valley [and supply electrical goods]. I was hugely disappointed [with the commissioners’ reaction], Castletown cannot afford to lose shops. They were totally defeatist.’

He said he was ‘very disappointed’ with the lack of interest shown in his proposals, and said: ‘What’s the point in being here [as a commissioner]?’

During the commissioners’ meeting Carol Quine made reference to the fact Kate Beecroft MHK will make a call in Tynwald for the loss making MEA shops to be closed. In 2010 the five retail units made a loss of £414,000.

But Mr Leather pointed out a contradiction within government, and said: ‘Government is giving shops money in regeneration grants to help the retail sector – here we see the MEA shutting shops. To me, it’s hypocrisy.’

He added the shops do not just sell goods, but also provide a valuable service: ‘Just because Kate Beecroft has been an MHK for five minutes and stands up in Tynwald – if she wants to buy a fridge or washing machine she can drive there.

‘But look at an elderly person – they have no way of getting to Douglas let alone Spring Valley, and the buses do not go by Walton’s.

‘The MEA provides other services if an elderly person wants to go into a shop and pay for a connection or termination or whatever, they walk in and it’s done in an instant.

‘You might be in arrears with your electricity bill or want to talk to a person. That shop has been open for 50 years. Places like the National Sports Centre and Villa Marina do not make money.

‘The MEA is owned by government, it is giving it with one hand [in regeneration funding] and on the other hand are taking it away.’

He will raise the issue at a future regeneration meeting and also at an upcoming meeting with the town’s MHK Richard Ronan.

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