Councils under fire for not spending £10m High Street Innovation cash

Government and local authorities across the country have come under fire as it emerges that only a fraction of the £10 million High Street Innovation Fund, unveiled last year, has been spent.


Source: essygie

The cash was announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government last April in the wake of retail guru Mary Portas’s review of the high street, and was intended to be spent on projects to deal with empty shops.

But a Freedom of Information request suggests that only around 7 per cent of the money awarded to councils has actually been spent, while one local authority – Calderdale Council – even rejected the cash.

Large chunks of the money that has been spent – £520 000 out of a possible £7.2 million allocated to councils who responded to the FOI request – have gone on projects such as hiring a Santa Claus and installing a leisure centre ramp.

Paul Turner Mitchell, a Rochdale independent shop-owner and contributor to the Portas report, submitted the FOI request.

He says, ‘Looking at these figures you can only conclude that councils are either complacent about the problems on the high street or they simply don’t know what to do about it.

‘Either way ministers need to look at ways of getting high street funding to the coalface much quicker. Bureaucratic dawdling is the last thing we need.’

Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, says, ‘At a time when there’s not much money to go around, we shouldn’t be just doling millions out willy-nilly.

‘There are plenty of people with fantastic ideas who could have put this money to much greater use than a concrete plinth or a Santa Claus outfit.’

A spokesman for the DCLG says, ‘We are absolutely committed to reviving the nation’s high streets which is why we gave the 100 councils with the highest numbers of empty properties a share of £10million to attract new businesses into their areas.

‘We would rather councils spend this money strategically and wisely, to ensure long term success for our High Streets, than rush to spend it and waste taxpayers’ money in the process.’

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  • Geof Jones November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    We have been proposing innovative ways to improve the highstreet for years – it was clear this fund was going to be wrongly purposed as councils don’t understand business.

    If they can force people to pay rates and not pay out for road repairs and improvements – they will.

    Why does the government and councils get away with this – if it’s not a quango like Advantage west midlands its some other government run “fence sitting” lame ducks who sit on the sidelines whilst their town dies – but make sure they get their public sector salaries and golden pensions.

    We don’t need any more celebrities claiming they have the answer (but fair to Portas, she put her money where her mouth was) to get the UK thriving again, you need small business owners and jobless students with the get up and go to get the support and make the move.

    Use that money to offer rate free shop for 2 years (they do for the charity shops, why not businesses) and money for shop fitting and signs perhaps a loan guarantee for a startup –

    why do councils think putting a plaster on things fix it. Business owners know what to do, why do councils and government think they know better – as they have never got it right.

    A real problem, needs to be fixed by real people…

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