Covid-19’s economic damage risks levelling down in East of England

Covid-19’s economic damage risks levelling down in East of England

Luton faces the biggest challenge in the region

  • Peterborough and Ipswich also face big challenges.
  • Government must boost Universal Credit, help people back into work and support the East of England’s urban centres.

Covid-19’s economic damage risks levelling down many places in the East of England as its largest cities and towns have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic. This is according to Centre for Cities’ annual study of the UK’s major urban areas – Cities Outlook 2021.

Since last March there has been an unprecedented rise in people claiming unemployment-related benefits in the East of England compared to the rest of the country. Across the East of England’s largest cities and towns the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits has increased by 3.6 percentage points – outpacing the national average of 3.3 percentage points.

Luton is the place in the East of England facing the biggest economic challenge, followed by Peterborough and Ipswich.

While in the medium-term many places in the East of England are better placed to bounce back from the pandemic than elsewhere, in the short-term the Government must act fast to prevent a levelling down of these places that the whole UK depends on to create jobs and fund public services.

The pandemic has also made the Government’s promise to level up cities and towns of Northern England and the Midlands four times more difficult. 634,000 more people outside the Greater South East now need to find secure, well-paid jobs to level up the country, compared to 170,000 in March.

The Chancellor should announce how he will deal with Covid-19’s short-term damage to cities and large towns. The plans should include:

  • Making permanent the £20 rise in Universal Credit.
  • Supporting jobless people to find new good jobs.
  • Consider the merits of a renewed Eat Out to Help Out scheme for hospitality and non-online retailers once it is safe.

Acting to prevent further economic damage by Covid-19 is not the same as levelling up. Once the health crisis ends, the Government will need to spend additional money on further measures to level up, including:

  • Further education to train jobless people for good roles in emerging industries.
  • Making city centres better places for high-skilled businesses to locate.
  • Improvements to transport infrastructure in city-regions.

Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter said:

“At the last election the Government pledged to level up the North and Midlands, but now there is a very real risk that previously prosperous cities and towns in the East of England could be levelled down – at least in the short-term. This will have damaging consequences for the whole country, which depends on places in the East of England to create jobs and fund public services.

“Stopping the East of England’s levelling down and helping the North and Midlands recover will not be cheap and will require more than short-term handouts. Government support and investment for new businesses in emerging industries will be essential, as will spending on further education to train people to do the good-quality jobs created.”

For more information visit the Centre for Cities website 

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