Brandon Lewis

Lewis (second from right) promised “note” on money

The government was this week accused of losing track of £2.3m of taxpapers’ cash earmarked to save the high street.

A report by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee found that the DCLG’s “hands-off” approach to the 27 Portas Pilots meant much of the funding had yet to be accounted for.

When questioned by the committee in October as part of its inquiry into UK retail, high streets minister Brandon Lewis said he would “get a note” to the committee on how the money had been allocated. But this week the committee said: “As of February 2014, we had not received a note from the minister.”

The latest available figures showed that one of the pilots, Stockport, had yet to spend any of the £100,000 it received from the government.

“There is no readily available data on the allocation of the funds, and, as far as we are aware, no organisation is auditing the funds,” added the report, claiming the government’s approach had “come without any meaningful finance or any coherent and effective plan”.

When questioned by the committee, Mary Portas said there should have been “clear guidance” from the government on how to create an effective town team.

A source close to Portas told The Grocer Portas had been shocked at how the government had “thrown money at towns who simply didn’t know what to do with it”. He added that in hindsight it was evident that “in some cases, it went to the wrong towns”.