In its latest headline-grabbing initiative, the Government announced this week a £3m fund to help empty shops be turned into art galleries and other community schemes.

It even suggested artists should paint pretty pictures to patch over the boarded-up shopfronts.

Skills secretary John Denham was full of praise for the latest wheeze to 'paint' over the cracks in the UK economy. "We don't want to see space such as unused shops on our high streets go to waste, especially when we know people can put that space to good use for meeting up and learning for fun."

I'm sure retailers whose businesses have folded will be thrilled to learn that their former shop is being used as a meeting place for the local knitting group.

But wouldn't it be better to help businesses stay open for, er, business? The best way for the Government to help high streets would be to give retailers a break -with the Chancellor scrapping all the proposed business rate and duty increases indefinitely. Because, as every knitting group will tell you, a stitch in time saves nine.