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Portas Money

Requested on
Wed 3rd April, 2013
Reference
FOI 2850
Resolution
Information provided

Question

On 25th July 2012, Loughborough was named as one of The 15 second tranche Portas Pilots’ to enable the town team bring their high street back to life. In order to achieve this, a share of £1.5 million was awarded to put their winning plans into action.

This money was paid through s31 unringfenced revenue grant, paid directly to the local authority. Each partnership needed to identify an Accountable Body (local authority) to receive the grant, if they were not, themselves, a local authority. It was expected that local authorities in receipt of grant to work constructively with their communities, through their Town Team, in using funding.

The following request is, therefore, made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000:-

• The exact amount of government funding applied for and received for the Portas Pilot initiative
• The exact amount of that funding that has physically been spent as a 31st March 2013
• Please provide a breakdown and summary of how that funding has been physically spent including date of payment, amount of payment and what exactly the payment was for.
• Please provide details and evidence as to how the Local Authority is benchmarking the success of the Pilot.
• Please provide details of the criteria and terms of reference for the monitoring and benchmarking as to the success of the Pilot.
• Has the success or otherwise of the Pilot been assessed by the Local Authority to date? If so, please provide a copy of the relevant report and/or summary.

Answer

Following the above information request I am able to provide the following information:
• The exact amount of government funding applied for and received for the Portas Pilot initiative
Applied for £100,000 / Received £100,000

• The exact amount of that funding that has physically been spent as a 31st March 2013
£9,920.95

• Please provide a breakdown and summary of how that funding has been physically spent including date of payment, amount of payment and what exactly the payment was for.
See attached spreadsheet which has details of all spending up to date

• Please provide details and evidence as to how the Local Authority is benchmarking the success of the Pilot.
As a member of the Association of Market Towns we participate in its annual benchmarking of 12 key performance indicators across 15 comparable large towns.
We will monitor and evaluate the impact of the Portas funding in the following ways:

• Catchment area research. We will measure catchment area expenditure annually and aim to increase our share from 5.0% to 6.5% by year three
• Mentoring businesses on social networking. We will monitor the number of businesses participating and measure the increase in trade generated through social networking sites aiming to double it by year three
• Retail Master classes. We will monitor the number of businesses participating in the training and measure their improvement through before- and after- mystery shopping. We aim to train 30 businesses each year
• B2B micro site. We will monitor use of the site and aim to double the number of users each year
• Smarter Travel. We aim to get 20 new businesses a year participating in this initiative
• Market start-ups. We will monitor the success of this scheme and aim to get 10 new participants each year
• Vacant Units. We will monitor vacancy rates on an annual basis and aim to get 5 units a year used for alternative purposes
• New lease terms. We will work with the landlords of vacant premises and aim to get 5 start ups a year on short term leases on favourable terms
• Social networking. We will monitor use of our Facebook and Twitter accounts and hits on our web site and aim to double use each year
• Retail Radio scheme. We aim to double the number of users over the three years
• After work shopping. We aim to increase the number of businesses offering extended hours by 20 a year


• Please provide details of the criteria and terms of reference for the monitoring and benchmarking as to the success of the Pilot.
The key challenge is to regain Loughborough’s proper share of its catchment expenditure. Research by Lambert Smith Hampton found Loughborough retains only 5.08% of its catchment expenditure compared to 11% typical in other “Regional Towns”. They identified “significant leakage to other centres”.

Vacancy rates are 11% and rising, with some parts of the town particularly badly affected.  Many independent businesses report they are “on the edge” and the next 12 months will be critical. There is little private investment. Two large sites in the BID area remain derelict and vacant. Many buildings are shabby, neglected and poorly maintained.

There is huge potential for improvement in Loughborough’s performance if it is to fulfil its “Regional Town” role.

We lose trade to Leicester, Nottingham and Derby which have all made major improvements. There is the growing challenge of internet shopping. All the major supermarkets are represented locally and the massive Fosse Park out of town centre with acres of free parking is a 15 minute drive away.

To rise to that challenge we must:

1. Transform both the perceptions of Loughborough and the experience. We must develop an offer which attracts more people to come and to learn to Love Loughborough – again or for the first time.
2. Help existing businesses to raise their game and give customers the service they deserve
3. Help new businesses to set up and thrive
4. Make sure that Loughborough’s students are aware of everthing the town has to offer and are encouraged to use it
5. Make the town more user friendly and accessible to suit modern needs – in the early evening, at night time and on Sundays  

A 30% increase in our share of catchment spend would transform the context for private investment.  If footfall and expenditure are rising, investment will surely follow.

Portas recommendations for testing:
1 - Creating a Town Team
5 - Encouraging new market traders
7 - Business rate concessions
9 - Free controlled parking
16 - Support and mentoring by large retailers
18 - New lease structures
19 - Bringing vacant units into use

Our priorities are:

1. Transforming perceptions
a. Research existing perceptions and areas for improvement with the University’s Retail Group
b. Develop awareness of the Love Loughborough Brand through marketing and promotion
c. Create an interactive web site and Loyalty Card

2. Developing existing businesses
a. Recruit and train students to mentor businesses on social networking
b. Run retail master classes with Loughborough University and successful retailers
c. Develop a micro-site for B2B support, innovation and best practice
d. Reduce business costs through sustainable travel through Smarter Travel schemes

3. Helping new businesses
a. Provide support for business start-ups including free trials on market stalls
b. Use vacant units for student enterprises, new businesses or displaying goods from nearby businesses
c. Trial with Landlords rent-free periods or turnover-based rentals
d. Apply Local Development Orders and Business Rate exemptions to problem premises

4. Developing the student market
a. Target Freshers’ Week with Loyalty Card offers
b. Student Shopping Nights – previously only trialled in City Malls
c. Develop social networking, QR codes, mobile apps and a wireless Town Centre

5. Expanding the town centre offer
a. Coordinated promotion of Night Time and Sundays including free parking
b. Specialist Evening markets
c. Merge PubWatch and COOL with a single radio scheme
d. Incentives to encourage after-work shopping
e. Joint marketing of Entertainment and Food and Drink including “pre-show” offers
f. Programme of Events to support the extended shopping offer
g. Relax street licensing and charges for outdoor cafes
h. Incentives to encourage independent sector to vary opening hours

• Has the success or otherwise of the Pilot been assessed by the Local Authority to date? If so, please provide a copy of the relevant report and/or summary.
See attached report which was produced by the BID for the Love Loughborough partnership meeting

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