Struggling places will fall even further behind without targeted policies

By Andrew Carter | 13 May 2020
  • Andrew Carter

Now that we have passed the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, policymakers’ attention is turning to how to kickstart the economy. 

They have a big job: A quarter of all workers are now paid via the furlough scheme and it is likely to be a while before cafés, pubs and restaurants return to normal.

Places will experience COVID-19’s consequences differently depending on the strength of their local economies. Because office jobs are more suited to homeworking, cities with greater shares of them – such as London and Edinburgh – have so far seen less economic disruption than those dependent on retail or manufacturing. They will also be better placed to adapt to post-COVID working arrangements.

Meanwhile, places most heavily dependent on aviation are likely to be hardest hit. More than half of jobs in Crawley are at risk and we’re already seeing the effects: Virgin and British Airways announcing redundancies and considering shutting their Gatwick operations.

But it’s not just people working for airports or airlines being affected. Crawley and Luton’s economies are built around aviation. Hotels, taxis and cafés all cater to the industry and they are all struggling.

Crawley BC and the local MP have understandably asked chancellor Rishi Sunak for a bespoke rescue package. They won’t be the only place to make this request; around one in five jobs in large towns and cities are at risk of furlough or redundancy due to COVID-19.

Every single city and town in the UK will need a localised plan that reflects their circumstances to help them rebuild their economies.

In addition, as the Government adapts its policies in the next phase of lockdown it should consider how these need to be flexed to reflect the different economic circumstances of places.

The concern is that without targeted policies, places that were struggling pre-COVID will fall even further behind in the future.

Andrew Carter is chief executive of Centre for Cities

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