Hamleys chief calls for action on capital issues

Hamleys executive chairman Simon Burke has lashed out at 'dithering' over the management of central London and its transport system.

He said more also needs to be done to promote London and boost its economy by attracting shoppers and tourists.

Addressing delegates at the Retail Week Conference on Tuesday, Burke said retailers, and in particular representative organisations such as the CBI and the British Retail Consortium, need to speak out to promote store groups' interests.

Talking after his speech, Burke said: 'This goes deeper than the congestion charge, which I think will have a fairly neutral effect on retail. It's also about the planning of the public transport system. The mayor and the Government have dithered over this issue.

'I think (the BRC) could be heard saying those things. I spoke for five minutes on this subject at the conference and I seem to have attracted a huge response.

'Why does it fall to the likes of me to voice concern over things that must be affecting all retailers in central London?'

He said that improvements over the past 10 years by 'more proactive city councils' in Manchester and Leeds have shown what can be achieved.

He asked: 'Do you think Selfridges would have opened in Manchester five or 10 years ago?'

Burke, whose world famous toy store on Regent Street accounts for about half of Hamleys' overall sales, said he thought the recently established New West End Company was 'a very good idea'.

But he said: 'Why am I being asked to contribute£10,000 to the New West End Company when I pay£100,000 a year in rates to Westminster City Council?'