Housing minister Grant Shapps has called critics of the Government’s response to the Portas Review “misinformed”.
Some industry stakeholders have agreed with the British Retail Consortium’s view that the Government “lacks a bold vision” and that its strategy does not fulfil the ambition Mary Portas presented in her Review, commissioned by the Government.
Shapps, who took on the town centre remit in December, refuted these claims.
He said: “Not only did we accept nearly every recommendation Mary Portas put forward, but we’ve actually gone further.”
This morning, Shapps revealed the Government is committing to additional plans, pledging almost £13m of funding to boost Britain’s struggling high streets, in its ‘Portas Plus’ strategy.
Shapps revealed 100 local authorities each received a £100,000 share in their bank accounts this morning from the £10m High Street Innovation Fund. Local authorities were chosen based on vacant unit data and how severely hit they were in last year’s riots. He estimated 16 London local authorities received the cash.
The money will be used to help local authorities fill empty stores and continue the clear up of any riot damage.
Referring to the Government’s decision not to ease the 5.6% business rate increase, which will hit retailers next month, Shapps said: “Until the deficit is under control, we will not be reviewing how we calculate business rates.”
He said he believed key changes were already taking place on the high street as hundreds of local authorities have developed plans to become Portas Pilots.
“The proof is in the eating,” he said. “I think it would be disingenous to say [it’s a marketing stunt] when there are quite literally hundreds of communities getting together and these are not just vague plans.”
He added that landlords, shoppers and councils have “come together and made an enormous effort” to tackle failing high streets.