The Independent has written about the Portas Pilots: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/portas-pilot-towns-wasted-grants-on-items-like-a-1600-peppa-pig-costume-8494026.html
Surely the progress with the Portas Pilots shouldn’t come as a surprise. Unless any project has already spent money on ‘project development’ (i.e. working out in advance what you want to do, why and how) it will not be (and should not be) in a position to spend money quickly – this is one of the usual faults with Government funding programmes: they don’t want to give you anything (or much) for project development then suddenly come up with a pot of money, or finally tell you that you have been awarded it, and then want you to spend it as quickly as possible. We shouldn’t be surprised in these circumstances if the money either isn’t spent quickly, or if it is spent is spent inefficiently. Having said all this, wasn’t the Portas Pilot money supposed to be for places which already had a Town Team, so you would had thought that they would have ideas on what to spend the money on already lined-up?
I can’t see the problem with spending some money on Peppa Pig – if this brings the kids out, and it turn their parents, you have a group of people to inform, consult and talk to who may not be the usual suspects. I have seen brilliant examples of public engagement which at first glance doesn’t look like public engagement.
To be honest, I think that the amount which each ‘Pilot’ has been awarded so small that one person in each place should have been given total freedom to do what they want with it and see what happens – after all they are supposed to be pilots which others can learn from. I know this contradicts what I said earlier to some extent, but I could have spent the money and had things happening on the ground by now – they may not have all worked (but I think they would have) but we would have learnt from them.