A NORTH-EAST town is one of 12 in the country criticised for not spending money allocated to breathe new life into its High Street.

Stockton was chosen last May by TV shopping guru Mary Portas as a ‘Portas Pilot’ town and awarded £92,000 of public money to improve shopping and retail experiences in the town.

But a new report revealed that so far Stockton Borough Council has spent just £4,755 of the cash, the third lowest of all the towns.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that of the money spent so far £600 was expended sending what is believed to be just two people to London and back. Another £500 was spent on a trip to Croydon in train fares and a hotel room.

Shopping expert Paul Turner-Mitchell, director of Rochdale-based retailer 25 Ten Boutique, said: “It’s disappointing that, given this unique opportunity to try something different, many councils have wasted funding on the usual bureaucracy of meetings, expense claims and consultants.”

A spokeswoman for Stockton council said the money spent already has been on infrastructure and support for street food market event last year, marketing and publicity materials and travel to national Portas Pilot meetings. She explained a ‘town team’ of interested people in the town had been set up to come up with ideas.

She said: “The town team is made up of dedicated people who have a passionate interest in seeing the town succeed. There is no time limit on when the money must be spent and the town team is committed to spending it wisely rather than rashly, in a measured way, to best benefit businesses within the town centre.”