MP ‘disappointed’ by Mary’s report

REPORT: Mary Portas.
REPORT: Mary Portas.

DEWSBURY’S MP has labelled a major report into the state of Britain’s high streets by a self-styled retail guru a ‘disappointment’.

The report, which was published on Tuesday, was written by Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas who snubbed Dewsbury after she was invited to the town by the Reporter and Simon Reevell.

This week Mr Reevell said: “A lot of what she says, you or I would have come up with six months ago. It would have been better if she had come to Dewsbury and a few more places where things are a bit different.”

In her report, Ms Portas encouraged towns to set up town teams – a step Dewsbury has already taken. She said towns would benefit by having more independent traders which could be celebrated with a national market day.

But Mr Reevell said: “If she had come to Dewsbury where there already is a market then her big idea of having a market might not have looked as novel and innovative as she thinks it does.”

Other measures in Ms Portas’s report include clamping down on absent and negligent landlords, cutting business rates and offering more free town centre parking – measures which many people in Dewsbury have called for in the past.

Coun Khizar Iqbal (Con, Dews South), echoed Ms Portas’ recommendation and urged Kirklees Council to provide more free parking in Dewsbury.

He said: “While this may not be sufficient to regenerate the town in itself it at least shows a commitment and will allow Dewsbury to compete on a level playing field with other North Kirklees towns.”

Mr Reevell said the important thing was to get more people working in Dewsbury, in places like Pioneer House. This, he said, would act as an incentive for prospective retailers, as there would be enough potential customers working in the town for them to sustain a business.

Leader of the council Coun Mehboob Khan pointed to examples of Ms Portas’s recommendations already in place in Dewsbury, such as the Town Team, the free bus and the free parking scheme. He said: “Although the economic climate is still very difficult and clearly there is a national recession, town centres across Kirklees are taking steps in the right direction.”