Portas hits out over high street campaign 'PR exercise'

Reports that retail expert Mary Portas has accused the government of using her campaign to 'Save the High Street' as a public relations exercise feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Telegraph reports that figures have shown that the 12 towns given a portion of a £1.2 million government grant under the Portas Pilot initiative "have lost nearly a thousand shops in five years". The paper says that this is "around the same rate of decline as the rest of the country". The newspaper says that "following the disclosure Portas has accused the government of using her campaign as a PR exercise. She claimed it was used to create the impression that efforts were being made to revive Britain's high streets, when in fact no policies were created at all."

Writing in the Financial Times (subscription required), economics author John Kay says that the "least bad" option for boosting housebuilding is "to give the job to local authorities, with funding by central government borrowing". Kay says that "municipalities are probably best placed and incentivised to seek out both greenfield and brownfield sites, many of which are to be found in the public sector itself. And to face down residents who want houses built anywhere so long as it is not anywhere near them."

The Times (subscription required) reports that "a buying frenzy by councils desperate to plug gaps in shrinking budgets has involved many taking extraordinary risks in the commercial property market". The newspaper says that "almost 200 councils have made at least one investment in commercial property since 2012, with one in five spending more than £10 million and 12 spending more than £50 million".

The Times (subscription required) also reports that research has found that "the prosperity of Scottish cities is being held back by a failure to improve the health of many of their residents". The newspaper says that "every city in the country scored about or below average on the health measure used by the accountancy firm PWC to compile its annual Good Growth for Cities report, published today". The newspaper adds that "Dundee, Glasgow and Perth were all below the UK average health level, which is measured by the percentage of the working age population who are economically inactive and long-term sick".

The Guardian says that the research also reveals that "Birmingham is the most rapidly improving city in the country in which to live and work ... as Britain’s second city benefits from falling unemployment and a wave of regeneration projects."


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