Retail leaders have expressed frustration at Prime Minister David Cameron after Mark Prisk was sacked yesterday amid a Cabinet reshuffle.
The move to axe Prisk, formerly the housing minister, comes just six months after he set up the Future High Streets Forum of which he was co-chair. This was created to develop recommendations to rescue the high street made by retail expert Mary Portas in her Government-backed Portas Review.
But Prisk’s exit has put a question mark above the future of the Forum. The Forum had already lost its other co-chair, former Alliance Boots health and beauty chief executive Alex Gourlay, after he took up a new role at Alliance Boots’ merger partner, US drugstore Walgreens, this month.
One member who did not wish to be named 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.”
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.”
But some members welcomed Prisk’s departure and suggested he was not the right minister to chair 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.”
Prisk was scheduled to lead the committee on its first fact-finding mission to Bedford next Monday, while the next formal meeting was planned for Tuesday. It is not known whether these will go ahead.
It is also not yet known who will replace Prisk.