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UK Politics

Mary Portas' high street cash spent on a life-sized statue of a gorilla


A life-sized statue of a gorilla; gift-wrapping classes and entertainers dressed as cleaning ladies to hand out flyers were some of the more bizarre ways councils across the country have spent cash earmarked for regenerating Britain’s high streets.

The spending comes from the second round of funding paid out under the Portas Pilot schemes, however, some councils have not spent all their funding with £1.2 million out of the £1.9 million handed out not used.

Paul Turner Mitchell, a retail expert who uncovered the data through Freedom of Information requests, said: “It’s incredible. The Portas Pilots were supposed to be about blazing a trail of innovation and setting the standard for what can be achieved on our high streets.”

The majority of the spending has been on admin, marketing and staff costs, but Tiverton also spent £3,800 on a gorilla statue, Rotherham spent £150 on gift-wrapping classes, Braintree £350 hiring people to dress as cleaning ladies to hand out flyers.

When the pilots were first launched in 2011, Ms Portas said the money should be spent on “game-changing stuff and thoughtful engagement”.