Sadiq Khan, local authority leaders and more than 20 national and London-centred business groups have agreed a “roadmap” plan of action for reopening the capital’s economy, including proposals to the government for urgent short-term action to keep key sectors afloat ahead of the budget on 3 March and the appointment of a minister dedicated to overseeing the emergence from lockdown.
The London Covid Business Forum, which brings together representatives of the hospitality, creative, financial, tourism, retail and cultural industries, repeats long-standing calls for the extension to the business rates holiday and reduced VAT payments currently applying to particular sectors that are due to expire next month and asks for a clear and consistent to approach to the reduction of Covid restrictions.
The agreement on immediate priorities is described as the first part of a “three-phase approach” designed with the start of schools reopening from 8 March in mind but extending over a 12-month period.
City Hall has made the first phase of the roadmap public alongside announcing that Mayor Khan intends to invest £5 million encouraging domestic visitors to come back to the capital as soon as it is safe to do so. The commitment is included in Khan’s final budget for the GLA Group for 2021-22, which is published today.
“Working with the business community, new initiatives will be developed to encourage Londoners and tourists from around the UK back into Central London,” City Hall says. “Proposals are likely to include major events that showcase central London’s public spaces and cultural riches.” The endeavour will closely involved London & Partners, the GLA’s promotional body.
These moves come as Imperial College London findings suggest there has been an 80% fall in Covid infections in London since the latest lockdown began – and biggest percentage drop in England – although virus levels overall remain high.
The government is to publish its own “roadmap” to easing the lockdown in England on Monday. Sky News today reports “internal plans” in Whitehall said to suggest the economy will be reopened rapidly in the coming months, with students possibly following school children back to places of learning in mid-April and non-essential shops reopening at the same time.
Hospitality venues, hotels and leisure facilities would follow in late April and entertainment venues and sporting facilities in early May, according to Sky.
The London Covid Business Forum is seeking “targeted support” for London and intends to communicate with a “one London” voice what it describes as “the crisis facing London business and geographical areas such as the Central Activities Zone”, which is composed of the West End and the City, along with the north of the Isle of Dogs where Canary Wharf is located.
Echoing the roadmap’s emphasising that a quarter of the UK’s economic output comes from London and that the capital contributed close to a net £40 billion to the Treasury before Covid, Khan said that “without London’s economy firing on all cylinders again, a national economic recovery simply won’t be possible”.
Describing the pandemic as “the biggest challenge for London’s economy since World War II”, he said “the biggest tourism and public confidence campaign our city has ever seen,” is needed with measures taken to maximise safe use of public realm for outdoor dining and socially-distanced shopping across the capital.
Organisations represented on the London Business Covid Forum include the British Beer and Pub Association, London First, Camden Town Unlimited, London Councils, The City UK, the Night Time Industries Association, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Confederation of British Industry, the City of London, the Trade Union Congress and UK Hospitality.
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