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Retail guru to lead high street task force

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TV’s so-called Queen of Shops, Mary Portas is to lead a review aimed at developing “more prosperous and diverse high streets” across the country, the Government has announced.

Ministers said the move was part of a drive to remove barriers to growth evenly shared across the UK and between industries. Ms Portas said action was needed to halt the decline of high street shops, adding: “With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker.

“I am calling on businesses, local authorities and shoppers to contribute their ideas on how we can halt this decline in its tracks and create town centres that we can all be proud of.”

As part of her review, due to be completed by the autumn, Ms Portas will advise on how government, businesses and shoppers can tackle the problem of vacant shops, prevent “clone towns” being created and increase the number of small and independent retailers doing business in local town centres.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The high street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment, so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.

“That is why I am delighted that Mary Portas has agreed to take on this review and I am confident that her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach will help us to create vibrant and diverse town centres and bring back the bustle to our high streets.”

The announcement follows a report yesterday by economic forecasting group the Ernst & Young Item Club that high-street retailers face a decade of pain as the squeeze on family finances tightens.  

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