Mary Portas review slams council for ‘not listening’

A REVIEW into the state of the nation’s high streets - carried out by television retail guru Mary Portas - has slammed East Cambridgeshire District Council for ‘not listening’ to local people.

The 55-page review, set up back in May, singled out the authority for withering criticism, saying that its consultation with local people had been “poor” while claiming that the promise of money from developers had “outweighed” local views.

“The council have shown no appetite for listening to traders,” the report said. “The Ely Traders Association’s initial attempt to hold a meeting at the council building was thwarted by a response that they would need to insure for �5million public liability cover in order to hold the meeting.

“There is no indication that the council is listening to the weight of public opinion. A petition of 12,300 people - out of an Ely population of 18,000 - objecting to the introduction of parking charges has been collected.”

Mary Portas rose to fame in 2007 as the star of the BBC’s Mary Queen of Shops, where she offered advice to help turn around small businesses that were struggling.

Shewas commissioned to do the report by Prime Minister David Cameron, and its findings have been welcomed by Ely Trader’s Association member Andrew Olley, who called the report “damning.”

“The city’s traders are pleased that their campaign has received such a ringing endorsement at the highest level,” he said.

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“This is a damning indictment for East Cambs District Council. It is now under a national spotlight. We hope that councillors carefully consider the evidence in the Portas Review and look again at the information presented to them by their own local business community. It is sad that we have to see East Cambridgeshire named in this way.”

The district council has reacted angrily to the report however, and mailed a letter directly to the Government on the day the report was published branding it “misleading.”

Council leader Peter Moakes, said: “I find it frankly amazing that a significant independent report such as this has not further researched information which has been presented to them as fact. Should we as a council act in such a manner we would be quite rightly lambasted and reprimanded by Government.

“The real danger of being ‘named and shamed’ in such a way is the damage it can do to a city which is already working hard to ensure it has a centre which is vibrant, thriving and cherished.”

Cllr Moakes added that the authority had worked hard together with traders to improve the city’s markets, while also completing a masterplan to held manage growth in the city over the next 20 years.