Conservatives raise questions over M&S Woolwich exit

Local Conservatives have raised "serious questions" with the council over yesterday’s blow to Woolwich from Marks and Spencer’s decision to close its Powis Street store. 

Yesterday Cllr Spencer Drury, Leader of the Opposition and Parliamentary Candidate for Eltham again raised local Conservatives’ long-standing concern over the future of Marks and Spencer in Eltham, in light of the Woolwich decision and the council’s damaging so-called Masterplan that Marks and Spencer has previously warned “could significantly harm the operation of the store”.

On the issue of the closure of the Powis Street store, Cllr Matt Hartley, Deputy Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, has today raised five questions over the council’s interactions with the company, amid concerns of insufficient engagement and consultation with a major player in our local economy.

Cllr Matt Hartley said: “Yesterday’s very sad announcement that the Powis Street store is to close is disappointing from M&S – but it also raises serious questions over the council’s engagement with businesses like this that are crucial to the local economy. 

“This sad news for Woolwich is a big reminder of the change we need to see from the new council administration, with much more engagement and consultation with businesses large and small – to ensure that we keep the jobs and investment we need in the borough.”

Conservatives have raised the following five questions with the council today;

  1. How many times has the council met with representatives of Marks and Spencer since the publication of the Woolwich Town Centre Masterplan in April 2012, and what were the outcomes of these meetings?
  2. When did the council first become aware that the future of the Powis Street store was in doubt?
  3. Marks and Spencer published its annual results on 20th May, a fortnight before the decision to close the Powis Street store was announced publicly, revealing a 3.9% fall in profits and the cancellation of all bonuses.  Was the council aware of these results, were they discussed in the context of the M&S stores in the borough, and what procedure is in place for the monitoring of economic and business factors at the macro level, such as this, that could have an impact on our local economy?
  4. While the public reaction to the decision from the council was noticeably hostile – with a spokesperson labelling it ‘bizarre’ in the News Shopper and the Deputy Leader of the council criticising a ‘lack of commercial judgement’ - what constructive approach has been made in private to Marks and Spencer since the announcement?
  5. Has the council considered offering any incentives in order to attempt to secure a reversal of the decision to keep Marks and Spencer on Powis Street?

Opposition councillors intend to raise this issue at the first Full Council meeting of the new term later this month.

Read Cllr Spencer Drury’s response over what the decision could mean for Marks and Spencer in Eltham here.