Retail experts have poured scorn on claims made by the Government about helping to revitalise the UK’s troubled high streets.
The Local Government Minister Mark Prisk said: “Over the last year this Government has worked hard to help boost the high street, including initiatives to simplify planning, revamp the public realm, cut the business rate burden and revive local markets.”
Following the inaugural meeting of the joint Future High Streets Forum yesterday, he also cited the progress made in establishing the 27 so-called Portas pilot initiatives, based on the review by the retail expert Mary Portas, and the £10m High Street Innovation Fund.
But the British Retail Consortium has estimated that shops will have to pay an extra £175m in business rates bill from April when the latest 2.6 per cent rise comes in. This is in addition to the £500m of increased costs for retailers from business rate hikes over the past two years.
The retail expert Paul Turner-Mitchell said: “The reality is that most of the money given to the Portas Pilots and High Street Innovation Fund remains unspent and, where some delivery is taking place, things are moving at snail pace with little impact on local high streets.” He added: “I know Mark Prisk is new to this role but he seems completely out of touch with what’s going on at the coalface.”