COUNCIL chiefs have pledged to make the most of a grant which is set to breathe new life into Swadlincote town centre following criticism of a Government-funded high street scheme.
After its failed bid to receive funding as part of the Mary Portas project to upgrade high streets in Britain, Swadlincote was one of many towns across the country to receive a £10,000 consolation prize, to be used to make improvements and attempt to fill empty retail units in the town centre.
But the way the funding will be used has been thrown into the spotlight after similar a Government scheme came in for criticism.
It has emerged that a pot of money awarded to 100 councils in response to Mary Portas’ damning review of the high street a year ago has been left largely untouched, with just seven per cent of the £1 million having been used so far, leading to question marks over how the cash is going to be used.
Independent retailer Paul Turner-Mitchell said the Government needed to ‘look at ways of getting high street funding out to the coal face much quicker’.
But council chiefs in South Derbyshire maintained their commitment to enhancing Swadlincote town centre, and insisted they had a clear strategy for their slice of cash, saying they would ‘make every penny count’.
A spokesman said: “A report went to the environmental and development services committee on March 7, 2013, which outlined areas for action to make every penny count of the £10,000 of the Our Town First funding initiative. The money will be carefully invested to provide tangible results.
“One of the actions is to provide enterprise support to fledgling retailers, such as offering business advice and training. This service is already provided and we wish to use some of the £10,000 to enhance the support.
“We want to develop the brand of Swadlincote as the ‘market town of The National Forest’.”