The Future High Streets Fund has sidestepped the UK’s high streets in most need of investment, in favour of those in more marginal parliamentary constituencies.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced an additional 50 towns to benefit from the Future High Streets Fund last month, raising the financial aid from £675m to £1bn.
However, of the ten English local authorities with town centres in the most need of investment, only Rotherham was included in the second phase. This is based on research from retail property consultancy Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH).
Of the bottom ten excluding Rotherham, six sit in relatively safe Labour seats that have majorities of more than 10,000. The list of least “healthy” retail centres in HDH’s Vitality Index comprises Walsall, Doncaster, West Lancashire, Rochford, Blaenau Gwent, Inverclyde, Salford, Gedling, Eden and Knowsley.
|Eden||Con (Penrith and the Border)||15910|
|Rhondda Cyon Taf||Lab||13746|
|Rochford||Con (Rochford and Southend East)||5548|
Comparatively, 43% of the 50 high streets added to the High Streets Fund shortlist last month are in constituencies with a Conservative majority of less than 5,000. A further 12% had majorities of less than 1,000.
Despite being ranked as the 82nd-best high street in the UK, Leamington Town Centre was included in phase two of the Future High Streets Fund. Located within the constituency of Warwick and Leamington, Labour currently holds this seat with a majority of just 1,206.
”With an election looking likely, it is little surprise that the Prime Minister has signposted investment towards marginal seats, largely in Brexit-supporting regions,” said Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs. “These marginal seats will shape the make-up of the next parliament, and government investment in their high streets will arm the Conservatives with powerful local campaign messaging.”