Protests as PM sacks Mark Prisk, Minister for High Streets

Mark Prisk is ousted just six months after setting up action group to revive struggling retailers

Business leaders accused David Cameron last night of neglecting the high street after he sacked Mark Prisk, the minister leading the drive to regenerate the struggling retailers.

Formerly the housing minister, Mr Prisk chaired a group of civil servants and retail leaders called the Future High Street Forum. It was set up just six months ago by the Government in response to Mary Portas’s review into the state of Britain’s high street.

Members of the committee include the biggest retail bodies in the country, including the British Retail Consortium and the British Independent Retailers Association, and senior figures from Tesco, John Lewis, Vodafone and many others.

However, with Mr Prisk gone, the future of the group could be called into question, and members are furious at the decision to remove him.

Speaking anonymously, one member said: “To take Prisk away so quickly is just ridiculous. We all put in a lot of time into this, and to see that continuity destroyed so quickly is really frustrating. I think there are a lot of questions that need answering.”

The forum had already lost one of its chairmen in August, when Alex Gourlay, co-chair and chief executive of health and beauty at Alliance Boots, quit to take up a position at Walgreens in the US.

Another member told The Independent: “We all agreed that we wouldn’t speak individually about the forum in public, so we could put forward a united front, but now it just seems a bit headless. The Government are all talk and no trousers on this issue.

“How can they say they want to solve the problems, but change the people so soon after we’ve started.”

Mr Prisk revealed his sacking on Twitter, saying he had “been asked to step aside from housing for a younger generation”, adding “Disappointing. But it’s been a great eleven years as a frontbencher.”

Mr Prisk was supposed to lead members of the committee on a trip to Bedford next Monday, on its first fact-finding mission. That trip now hangs in the balance.

Since the Portas review, 27 towns and cities have been turned into Portas Pilots, with 333 Town Team Partners to test different approaches to revitalising the high street.

Ms Portas (inset) has sharply criticised the Government since publishing her review and said she felt “utterly deflated” by its unwillingness to act on her proposals. She accused the Government of not listening when it decided to grant planning permission for a new Tesco in Margate. “I genuinely believe we can have a new type of high street,” she said at the time, “but we need to dig deeper and I’m not seeing that happening and it’s getting very frustrating. The Government’s response to my proposals has been tepid. I feel exhausted by it.”

However, some members welcomed the decision and suggested Mr Prisk was not up to the job of chairing the group. One said: “The question is who will replace him? There had been suggestions the Government might create a high-street minister, but based on this decision that seems unlikely.”

It is not known who will replace Mr Prisk in Government and who will take his place on the committee.

According to minutes from the last meeting in June the biggest topic of conversation was business rates, which several retailers have called on the Government to reform.

The next formal meeting was scheduled for next Tuesday, but it is not known whether this will go ahead.

The Portas report: how it all fell apart

In February 2012 Mary Portas, best known for her TV makeover shows where she encouraged retailers to reinvigorate their stores, presented her report on the high street’s future.

Her ideas included improving parking, reviewing business rates and working with local communities.

The Government initially welcomed the report, but gradually one recommendation after another was rejected or quietly forgotten.

The Future High Street Forum was set up by business leaders and the Government to discuss the Portas report and offer new suggestions. Now it looks as if that committee could be in doubt too.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Audit Manager Central Functions

To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

Credit Risk Audit Manager

Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week