The latest Minister for the high street was last night under fire for keeping a low profile despite Britain’s town centres being rocked for months by hundreds of store closures and thousands of job losses.
Jake Berry MP was appointed to the role last year as part of his responsibilities at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
But top retailers told The Mail on Sunday they could not name him and suggested the role had now become anonymous due to Government inertia.
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‘I haven’t got a clue who he is. I’ve not heard of him,’ said Theo Paphitis, owner of more than 350 shops, including Robert Dyas, stationer Ryman and lingerie chain Boux Avenue. Critics say Berry is one of seven high street Ministers in as many years who have come and gone with barely anyone noticing.
Paphitis said: ‘They are not listening. They couldn’t give a monkey’s. They are preoccupied, don’t take proper advice and they don’t have a clue.’
High street tzar Jake Berry
Another chief executive at a large high street firm said: ‘We’ve spoken to Ministers and said, “Here’s the stuff that concerns us”, and they nod but nothing happens.’
Retailers including Toys R Us and Maplin have collapsed, putting more than 5,000 jobs at risk, while a string of retail and restaurant chains have admitted they are in financial difficulty.
Labour’s business spokeswoman Rebecca Long-Bailey said many retailers are ‘struggling to survive’.
She added that ‘wages are stagnating and personal debt levels are spiralling’ and the Government should ‘urgently address the growing problems’ facing retailers.
A Government spokesman said it was ‘determined to see high streets thriving but there is still plenty to do to’.
Quiz results: A: Grant Shapps 2011-12 / B: Mark Prisk 2012-13 / C: Brandon Lewis 2013-14 / D: Penny Mordaunt 2014-2015 / E: Marcus Jones 2015-2016 / F: Andrew Percy 2016-2017 / G: Jake Berry 2017-present