Government-backed scheme to save the high street is failing

Published on: 27th February 2013

According to a new report the Government scheme backed by retail expert Mary Portas to save struggling British high streets has descended into farce.

The Government enlisted Portas to try to revive high streets hit by rising rents and rates, the economic downturn, out-of-town supermarkets, and online shopping. But trade magazine The Grocer has reported that the pilot project has failed to provide a rescue package for thousands of shops under threat. The magazine said a national progress report, due to be published next month, has been shelved.

Under the pilot scheme, 12 towns, including Stockton-on-Tees, Bedford and Wolverhampton, were given £100,000 to test out Portas’s recommendations to bring shoppers back to town centres, while a further 370 towns were promised £10,000 each in September.

But the Government’s failure to award a £1.25 million contract to manage the pilot towns meant there was no chance the project’s findings would be ready for publication next month. Insiders told the magazine that ministers feared the management of the pilots had been so ineffective and inconsistent that the planned appraisal of their progress would not be worth the paper it was to be printed on.

However, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We will publish the year-on report on the pilots in the Spring as we have always intended. Any suggestion that it has been delayed is completely misleading.”

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