A group of London businesses, associations and other organisations has launched a manifesto seeking government help with bringing workers and visitors back to the heart of the capital.
The Central London Alliance, whose members include the Heart of London Business Alliance, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Blue Orchid Hotel group, have set out four “key asks”:
- Targeted support for business sectors hammered by the pandemic.
- Immediate “London-specific” advice about Covid safety.
- Transport funding tailored to long-term recovery.
- Measures to maintain global competitiveness.
The “sectoral support” called for includes a “targeted extension” of the government’s furlough scheme to help businesses retain staff in hospitality, retail and culture industry jobs. These parts of Central London’s economy have been particularly hard hit by the collapse in footfall Covid safety restrictions leaving many able to only partially re-open, if at all.
Specific requests include extending the deferral of tax liabilities that became due in July to cover “the closure and re-opening period in full” and subsidised tickets for cultural events, including concerts and theatre shows to help venues stay afloat financially.
The manifesto criticises “conflicting messages from government” about whether London is safe to visit and says the government “should be clear about what people are still allowed to do, not just what they cannot”. It adds: “The safety of visitors to Central London is vital, but so is the survival of the Central London economy,” underlining that footfall has returned to only 50% of pre-coronavirus levels at best.
A combination of short and long-term transport initiatives is posited, ranging from offers of free travel into the centre and “flexible ticketing” for workers who are working partly from offices and partly from home, to a “five-year, green, sustainable TfL settlement”. The manifesto also suggests relaxations of parking regulations and the current temporary current congestion charge changes brought in as a condition of May’s financial bailout of TfL”.
The fourth “key ask” calls for “a reversal of the recent decision to abolish VAT refunds for [all] overseas visitors” – an issue addressed by On London here – and its extension instead to embrace European visitors as well as those from the rest of the world, along with an increase in theatre tax relief, increasing Central London’s marketing budget and making it easier for local authorities to close streets to create “temporary arts, theatre, performance and dining spaces”.
Read the Central London Alliance manifesto in full here. Photograph: A quiet day in Selfridges.
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