Councils spend only 7% of High Street Innovation Fund

Out-Law News | 15 Mar 2013 | 1:16 pm | 1 min. read

Councils have spent little of a £10 million fund set up by the Government in response to Mary Portas' review of the high street, according to BBC reports.   

The High Street Innovation Fund was set up by the Government last year to help councils get empty shops on their high streets back into use and support was awarded to the 100 councils deemed to have the "worst affected" high streets.

The BBC said that it had seen responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests by independent retailer Paul Turner-Mitchell which showed that, a year later, only a little of the money granted had been spent.

Among the 72 councils which responded to the request, 47 said they had not spent any of the money. The remaining councils had only spent £519,363 in total, which amounts to 7.2% of the £10m.

A previous freedom of information request by Turner-Mitchell had revealed that the first 12 Portas Pilot towns, which were announced by the Government last year also in response to the Portas review, had spent only 12% of the £1.2m granted to them.

"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," said Turner-Mitchell according to the reports. "Either way, ministers need to look at ways of getting high street funding out to the coalface much quicker," he said.

"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 £10m to attract new businesses into their areas," a Department for Communities and Local Government told the BBC.

"We've also given local authorities powers to offer business rate discounts and have simplified planning restrictions to allow new businesses to set up on high streets. 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," the spokesperson said.