Councillor Sam Love claims Wishaw businesses better off since roadworks began
Councillor Sam Love has been called out of touch by angry business owners after claiming Wishaws struggling Main Street shops are better off than they were before town centre roadworks began.
The Labour representative sparked outrage when he said that shops "were worse then [before the roadworks] than they are the now", at a Wishaw and District Local Area Partnership meeting last week.
His controversial claim came after another Wishaw councillor, Marion Fellows, raised concerns regarding Main Street businesses being adversely affected by the ongoing Streetscape project.
Councillor Love claimed that businesses are healthier now six months into the multi-million pound project than they were before the extensive works closed large sections of the Main Street in April.
In the intervening months, some businesses have folded with others reporting huge year-on-year losses.
When we contacted Mr Love to expand on his claim, he denied making the comment.
He went on to say that he didnt believe businesses in the Main Street were any worse now than before the roadworks despite admitting that he does not shop in the town centre.
Murdostoun representative John Taggart was also at the meeting in Wishaw Library and was left astounded by Cllr Loves claim.
He said: "Remarks which are blatantly not backed-up by facts are really not things you should be saying in the public domain.
"Since the Streetscape works started, retailers have lost a fortune and foot fall has decreased markedly. So for the convener of the LAP committee to turn round and say the town was worse before the work started is blatantly untrue."
Responding to our questions, Cllr Love said: "I don't think they [town centre businesses] are doing any worse, put it that way.
"There's two or three shops you go into in Wishaw that are busy all the time and there are some that are not so busy.
"I think when the work started initially there might have been people not sure what was open and closed and I think some of the businesses suffered at first but I think now its getting not so bad."
When we asked the councillor if he thought any town centre shops were struggling because of the roadworks, he replied: "No. Not the ones that I've spoken to. I don't think its any worse or any better.
"I don't go into these shops in Wishaw. I don't know if it's any busier or any quieter.
"I never said business is better now because I'm never in a shop."
We put Cllr Loves comments to several, struggling Main Street businesses, all of whom confirmed considerable reductions in custom since the scheduled 18-month project began.
Shan Kambo, who runs Homestyle, said: "It was bad then its worse now.
"We're at least 35 per cent down every week.
"For an independent retailer that is a lot of money.
"It's only going to get worse for us, as we depend on Christmas trade.
"The councillor just doesn't have a clue.
"He can make whatever statements he wants at meetings but he really should come and speak to the retailers."
We put Mr Kambos comments to Cllr Love.
He said: "Homestyle - is that the shop in the old Woolies? That shops never busy. Any time I go past it I've never seen it busy.
"To be fair, the question has got to be asked: he's got accounts there and should be able to prove that.
"Did you ask to see his accounts?"
The councillor's controversial comment at the LAP meeting came after Cllr Fellows said the town's popular Artisan restaurant had seen a drop in business. Derek and Fiona Mather, Artisan's owners, told us: "I have to disagree entirely with what Councillor Love said. We are well down.
"Tell him to come in here and look at our books. It's crazy.
"If the businesses are doing well then why have three or four of them closed?"
Derek added: "I've not had a wage in four or five months."
Robert Rown, of the Carpet Clearance Centre, said: "I'd ask Sam Love what planet he is on.
"Shops are shutting down, so how could it be better?
"We're just keeping our head above the water but they're closing our bit of the road next.
"That'll be the big test.
"We're much, much worse than we were before. Sam Love is totally out of touch."
Paul Santoni is a senior court partner at Freeland's Solicitors and Estate Agents on Main Street.
He said: "I'm not aware of where Cllr Love gets his information from or what statistics he is using to justify his position.
"I've spoken to numerous shopkeepers and the information they've communicated to me and at the four public meetings that have so far taken place, is that the volume of business is down between 40 and 50 per cent.
"One man had counted the number of people that had opened his shop door over a period since the roadworks began and his footfall was down 40 per cent.
"In regard to any suggestion that the level of business has increased, I just find that incredible."
Councillor John Taggart added: "I can understand why Sam Love is a bit touchy about the subject, as he is trying to beat a case which they lost before.
"We need to get some life back into Wishaw.
"It was gradually declining before the work began on the Streetscape project - the footfall has declined markedly since.
"You dont just need to take my word for it, just ask the people of Wishaw.
"I'ts a fact."