Portas slams high street 'tragedy'

News that the government's high street advisor and retail expert Mary Portas has described the government's decision to postpone a revaluation of business rates as a 'tragedy' features in today's newspaper round-up.

The Financial Times (subscription) says Portas described the decision by communities secretary Eric Pickles to delay the move by two years as a "tragedy for the high street". The paper says the government is "facing a chorus of criticism from property experts, retailers and MPs who argue that the move is unfair because it will leave tenants paying a levy based on ‘top-of-the-market 2008 rents’ for longer."

The Independent reports that electricals chain Comet is to be placed into administration next week, putting about 6,500 jobs under threat and "marking one of the biggest high street casualties in recent years". The paper says Comet has said it was "urgently working" on plans to secure the company’s future. It is expected that administrators will seek a buyer for the business, which has 240 stores across the UK, the paper reports.

A political sketch in the Independent reports on yesterday’s energy questions in Parliament. Donald Macintyre says there "was a poignant, almost-tear jerking moment yesterday during the horror show that was energy questions when the former (and sacked) minister of state Charles Hendry rose to express his –and among Tory MPs increasingly rare – support for wind farms". Macintyre says the current energy secretary, Hendry’s former boss, "turned as his former deputy spoke. Their eyes met. You could only imagine the thoughts coursing through Davey's brain. If only they could be colleagues again! What fun it had been when they marched in step together towards a greener future!" Instead, says Macintyre, Hendry had to confront "the hulking, larger than life, monstrous reality of the Tory replacement for Hendry now sitting beside him on the front bench: John Hayes, the man who had declared war on further wind farms the previous day with a warning that ‘enough is enough’".

The Telegraph reports that Birmingham Airport has called for a "congestion charge" to be imposed on Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The paper says the airport is arguing that ministers "should encourage greater use of airports outside the South East, by imposing a levy on its rivals, which are near to capacity and often keep aircraft in holding patterns during peak travel times."

Finally, the Independent reports on the unusual cover image for Lord Heseltine’s report, No Stone Unturned, into UK competitiveness. The cover features a cartoon image of Heseltine lifting a huge rock and shining a torch beneath it. The paper says "the dodgy clip art aside, it marks a welcome change from the usual approach to similar documents, which rely on the sort of dull designs that could induce comas in anyone unfortunate enough to have to read the thing. Far be it for us to judge reports by their covers, but if more looked like this, perhaps engaging the populace on the drier issues wouldn't be so hard."

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