High Street Innovation Fund Hardly Used

The ten million pound High Street Innovation Fund set up by the government last year to assist with England’s struggling high streets has been "barely touched" according to the latest data.

In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, obtained by Paul Turner-Mitchell, the Director of independent fashion retailer, 25 Ten Boutique in Rochdale, Lancashire, the figures that show that around 7% of the fund has actually been spent.

The High Street Innovation Fund was set up in response to the Mary Portas Independent Review of the High Street. 100 councils with the worst affected High Streets in England were awarded access to the fund.

Mr Turner-Mitchell approached all 100 councils with a Freedom of Information request and just 72 responded.

Information from Mr Turner-Mitchell’s FOI request shows some interesting uses of the high street fund, including a £164 snow machine, £1,000 spent on a reindeer and £1,500 on a Santa Claus. One council even spent £10,900 on Christmas lights.

This comes despite Mary Portas saying herself that:

"This should be game-changing stuff and thoughtful engagement, not just the usual suspects round a table planning the Christmas decorations."

Of the 72 councils that did respond to Mr Turner-Mitchell’s requests, 47 said that., although they had been awarded the money, they hadn’t spent a single penny on their high streets.

The councils defended themselves and were backed up by a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman saying that it was more important to spend the money wisely than to spend it quickly.

Paul Turner-Mitchell said that the councils were either simply complacent or just didn’t know what to do with their money.

The fund, also known as "Portas Plus", has been used wisely in some places though with Wyre Forest District Council in Worcestershire, saying that they’d spent £12,000 of their High Street Innovation Fund award on bringing ten disused shops back into use.

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