Kettering Council has been accused of having a “laissez faire” attitude towards regenerating the town centre.
Leader of the Labour opposition Cllr Mick Scrimshaw has criticised the Conservative ruling party for not doing more to turn around the fortunes of the town centre, which has been losing its high street names over the past few years.
Its biggest retail blow happened this summer after national favourite Marks & Spencer pulled down its shutters for the final time.
At the full council meeting on Wednesday (Dec12) Cllr Scrimshaw took the council, which is led by Cllr Russell Roberts, to task.
He said: “In 2003 the Conservatives took over control and one of first things they did was cut support to the business community. That destroyed partnership working.
“In my opinion since then all the council has done is have a laissez faire attitude towards the town centre. The council has allowed business to fend for itself. I totally disagree with that. The council needs to work in partnership with business.
“I appreciate there have been some small changes. But let’s not kid ourselves. New seating and park improvements are not going to make the slightest difference.”
The claims were disputed by the council’s portfolio holder for regeneration Cllr Mark Dearing.
In February this year the council unveiled a new vision for the town centre which included a number of new features such as improvements at Meadow Park, new electric charging points in car parks and the redevelopment of the former police station in London Road.
The one-way system at Eskdail Street has also been changed back to a two-way system.
Cllr Dearing said: “We have worked very very hard for the public. We have a proper policy that we agreed with shoppers and residents. We are working on the 19 and the vast majority of those that have been brought forward. A lot of the mid term stuff has been brought forward.”
At the meeting the council backed a motion to continue lobbying for more funding and grants that could help the town centre regeneration.
Rushden Lakes pulled in more than four million visitors in its first year of opening.
Kettering Council, along with those in Wellingborough, Northampton and Corby, has objected to a new scheme which would see the Rushden shopping centre developed further.