The high price of business along Cheapside

Barry Freeman
Barry Freeman
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By rights we should start looking to rename Cheapside early in this coming year.

Between the bookies and the pawn shops and the payday loans and the credit retailers this stretch of high street has become far too ruinously expensive for such a moniker to be apt any longer.

Dearside, perhaps. Or maybe Jackpot Gate, depending whether you’re a glass half-empty or half-full type.

The skeptics among you, clearly, would err to that former option. Maybe you’d even find this a little tame, and might prefer something a bit angrier. Pound Of Flesh Way, say, or Vampire Alley.

In a red triangle rather than on a conventional street sign, thereby warning visitors of the perilous route they are about to traverse.

Not, it must be said, that the toll exacted by these tireless engines of crisis commerce is limited to those struggling souls who venture across their thresholds. No, those whose financial lifeblood directly sustains these overlapping beasts (drained daily via fixed odds terminals and APRs marked up at rates to delight any backstreet shark) are merely the most obvious victims.

In reality the price is paid by the whole community (and by every other community which has fallen prey to this rapacious network of national/international predators), hard cash hoovered systematically from each corner of the immediate local economy.

Think of these businesses as one vast perpetual poverty engine; each element working independently of the other – one fleecing gambling addicts here, another grinding the indebted under eternal payment plans there – but in effect blindly combining to foster, nurture and, ultimately, prosper from hardship.

Poverty. Desperation. Addiction. Once social ills, now long identified as wealth generating resources to be ruthlessly mined.

Or so the glass half-full brigade
would have it – perhaps to the wry amusement of those half-full types!

Whoever they might be. Not, one suspects, many round here.

Certainly didn’t see them stand up to cheer earlier this month when it emerged that yet another loan company was vying to sink its fangs into Cheapside. No surprise there though. Who but a sadist or a fool would publicly welcome another jackal to their neighbourhood?

So where is this half-full glass being raised? And more important, how can we poison it?