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City mayor under fire over unspent regeneration cash

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Most of a £680,000 fund to spruce up shopping areas in Leicester remains unspent.

The Gateway Retail Area Improvement Scheme was part of city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby's 100 Day programme after he was elected in 2011.

However a report on the scheme, to be considered by city councillors next week, shows that so far only £67,014 has been spent, with a further £67,674 committed to schemes.

The initiative works largely through businesses being offered grants when they come up with match funding.

Opposition councillors say the lack of take-up indicates one of Sir Peter's flagship regeneration schemes has failed.

Liberal Democrat Nigel Porter said: "It really looks like this is not working.

"If businesses are not coming forward this is obviously not the scheme they want, so the mayor should have a rethink about how the money is used."

A total of £40,000 has been set aside for Church Gate, but only £4,000 of that has been spent so far, and £225,000 has been allocated for the Golden Mile, with £63,000 spent so far. Some £225,000 has been set aside for Braunstone Gate and Narborough Road, £50,000 for Belgrave Gate, £50,000 for the market area, £50,000 for Granby Street and £40,000 for Humberstone Gate East, but all of this cash remains untouched.

Tory councillor Ross Grant said: "A lot money has been set aside, but it is sitting in the bank not doing anything.

"I'd like to know why the Golden Mile has had £63,000 spent on it while other roads haven't had a penny. If it is because the mayor chairs a panel for the Golden Mile, that would be very unfair."

Sir Peter said: "What does Councillor Porter want me to do? Drive down Narborough Road throwing money out of the window?

"The purpose of match funding is to get the private sector investing in the city rather than handing out money.

"These schemes always pick up momentum."

The Mercury this week reported how £64,000, half from the council fund, has been earmarked for improvements to the appearance of the YMCA building in Granby Street.

A city council spokesman said: "This programme is set to run until 2015 and some phases are still in the planning stage. It can take a while for such schemes to take off, but once businesses see an improvement in surrounding shops, take-up of the grants usually increases.

"In recent months, we have seen an increased take-up to the extent we actually have more match-funding committed by businesses than we have put in ourselves.

"The scheme is not just dependent on the match-funding element.

"In the case of Belgrave Road, the council has paid for new signage and banners and general environmental improvements, as well as supporting the promotion of the area.

"We have been visiting premises door-to-door to raise awareness of the grants."

City mayor  under fire over    unspent regeneration  cash


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