Portas Pilot? Remember that? Mary Queen of Shops and her government-funded budget for another series on the telly?
In all, nearly £3 million of public dosh was put up at the recommendation of Prime Minister David Cameron’s “retailing Tzarina”, including a cool hundred grand paid over to a Croydon group – hastily drawn together, apparently with little accountability or independent oversight – which was made up of various shop-keepers and businesses based around Surrey Street who said that they would “revive” the fortunes of the Old Town.
Well, apart from one of the businessmen on the original organising committee getting the right ‘ump with Inside Croydon when we rumbled (well, he told us) that it was proposed that the Portas Pilot should spend nearly one-third of the total grant on running a committee and renting office space … in that very same businessman’s own premises? That bright idea was hastily revised once we had publicised it.
Then there was the wizard wheeze of spending £16,000 from the fund on three cake baking competitions, conveniently staged right on the doorstep of the aforementioned businessman’s own premises, although it seems that, after that generosity with public money was flagged up, further “Let Them Bake Cake” extravaganzas were quietly dropped.
But Croydon’s Portas Pilot may not be alone in its spectacular under-achievement.
Take Margate, which unlike Croydon was considered “interesting enough” by Mary Portas’s production crew to be included in the Channel 4 series, but where the utter superficiality of some of her suggestions caused division and rancour among the traders.
The ramifications of the scheme are still rumbling on there, with allegations that the chairman of the Margate town team has been awarded £1,000 from the fund to paint the front of his own shop (big shop frontage? Or expensive painters?). Meanwhile other members of the committee have been left to wait nearly two years to have hundreds of pounds of legitimate expenses incurred on behalf of the scheme (phone bills and the like) left unpaid.
“I’m shocked and disappointed,” one of those left out-of-pocket by their Portas experience said.
Might Croydon be in for some “shock” and “disappointment” over the way matters have turned out for its Portas Pilot?
- Portas Pilot one year on: more shops have closed in Croydon
- Let them bake cake: Croydon Portas team’s £16,000 spend
- Portas starts to opens doors – for £1bn “Hammersfield”
- One-third of Portas Fund being used to pay for a committee
Coming to Croydon
- Cronx Brewery open day, Jan 25
- Holocaust Memorial concert, Jan 25
- STDLCC Screening: Winter Nomads, Jan 27
- Renaming ceremony for Lake Conan Doyle, Feb 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Feb 3
- Babylon at the Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4-6
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Mark Steel at Ashcroft Theatre, Feb 12
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
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