The second round of Portas Pilots have spent just 36% of the Government money allocated to them 18 months ago to resuscitate high streets.
Freedom of Information requests from 11 of the 15 Portas Pilot towns show they were awarded £1.9m in taxpayer’s money and match funding but have spent just £693,000 since it was awarded 18 months ago.
The majority of the spending has been on administrative, marketing and staff costs. Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham spent £22,000 on employing a town team manager and Brighton spent £9,500 on a town team co-ordinator.
Liverpool claimed to not have a record of how the money had been allocated to Lodge Lane after using a private company to spend the money.
Tiverton spent £3,800 on a full size gorilla statue, Rotherham used £150 to fund gift-wrapping classes and Brighton spent £1,000 on a Portas logo and Braintree spent £2,110 on Portas banners.
Other more practical moves have been taken by town centres as Berwick upon Tweed, which spent £10,000 on refurbishing a toilet block and Ashford, which spent £1,900 on removing phone boxes.
The findings – collated by business rates expert Paul Turner-Mitchell – come after MPs called for the Government to provide more information about how the money has been spent.
Turner Mitchell said: “These are supposed to be pilots but they are not blazing a trail of innovation and they are not having a really meaningful impact.
“Throwing paltry sums of money at a few towns without addressing the key structural issues like business rates was never going to arrest long term decline. What we need to see is a series of pilots based on long term business plans with a long-term vision.”
The Government awarded £100,000 to two tranches of town teams last year to help them to use recommendations made by retail expert Mary Portas to revive struggling high streets. Local authorities were last year criticised for spending money on frivolous items such as a Peppa Pig costume.