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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Solvency II Project Manager - 10 month contract - £800 p/d

£800 per day: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, global financial services co...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£12500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'