By Jonathan Davies

Retail expert Mary Portas has criticised the government for being 'slow' in its action to rejuvenate the High Street.

In 2011, Portas submitted a report on how the government can take steps to help give the High Street a much needed boost.

Twenty-seven towns were given extra funding as pilot schemes and Portas said "333 High Streets have benefited from an investment of £3.6m via their town teams".

The retail guru, known as 'Mary Queen of Shops', criticised the government for "token gestures".

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Portas said: "Three years on there is still a big job to be done. The government has made token gestures in response to my review, but much more needs to happen, and fast.

"Why are there still so many empty shops left deteriorating on our High Streets? Local authorities should be granted the power to take control of these premises and use them creatively or commercially for the benefit of the community.

"Why are we still imposing crippling business rates which were established in Elizabethan times? The current system is out of date and favours online and big business. The Autumn Statement introduced some more rate relief measures, but these are just tinkering around the edges."

Government response

Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt said: "The new powers this government has given councils and communities are supporting those successes and have revived high streets and up and down the country

"Mary Portas has helped raise the profile of British High Streets and as she makes clear there are many tangible successes to be proud of.

"We've brought in a simpler planning process, with less red-tape and tackled over-zealous parking to help town centres thrive. And our business rate relief for many small shops has provided £1bn worth of support."

The Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Autumn Statement that a "full structural review" into the business rates system in England would be carried out, with the results due to be published in 2016.


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