The Dying Hearts of Britain‚’s Towns and Cities

During the summer of 2020 the Prime Minister urged office workers to people to cease working from home, for the sake of our ‚’great cities.‚’ The working from home culture, whilst imperative for reducing the spread of the virus, had the consequence also of reducing footfall in city centres to the detriment of city centre hospitality and retail, which are reliant upon office workers. With 4,397,240 people employed in businesses on British high streets in 2018 (14 percent of all those in employment in Britain), the working from home culture has led to retail and hospitality businesses ceasing trading, and a consequent loss of jobs. Whilst the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was in operation, during August, footfall in the 63 largest UK city centres averaged only 17 percent of pre-lockdown levels according to the Centre for Cities think tank. The COVID pandemic, and the measures in place to tackle the said pandemic, are compounding pre-existing problems relating to the high street. The growth of online shopping and high city centre rents has led to the closure of businesses across the country. According to the Office for National Statistics, retail employment in UK high streets fell in more than three-quarters of local authorities between 2015 and 2018 and despite furlough schemes, retail employment has fallen further still in 2020 as a result of the virus. Food services on High streets was one of the few growing sectors of the economy between 2015 and 2018 and is now one of the worst affected. The lack of trade in cafes and restaurants, and the closure of pubs and bars in almost all high streets, which employed 121,440 people in 2018, is contributing towards what can be described as the dying heart of our towns and cities.




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