Industry leaders have warned that the North West’s recovery will be hampered by new lockdown restrictions in the Liverpool City Region without extra funding.
Pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos in Liverpool have shut their doors under tier three lockdown, as part of the government’s bid to tackle the rise in Covid-19 cases.
Capital & Centric co-founder Tim Heatley told EG that, although Liverpool City Region has released £40m of emergency funding for struggling hospitality companies, central government needs to up its level of financial assistance to the sector. If it does not act now, Heatley said, it could risk seeing the region struggle to recover after the crisis.
“The cost of trying to level up the North is going to get greater if [the government doesn’t] intervene now to deal with the current existing crisis they have got, around those industries that are being told to shut down,” said Heatley.
“We don’t want the city to go into a full structural decline because it all starts to unknit, otherwise it will cost a huge amount of money to put right.”
The developer has closed its food and beverage and events spaces at its Tempest Liverpool project for the foreseeable future. It has also had to cover the rent rate and service charge on behalf of its F&B operators, costing it “hundreds of thousands” of pounds.
Heatley added that its tenants have been “pulled from pillar to post” as the business has reopened and closed several times throughout the crisis.
Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood, joined the call for more financial assistance.
He said: “Where further restrictions are put in place, the government needs to put funding in place to support those restrictions so [that it] is properly thinking through the trade-off.”
The property industry in the region remains in limbo while the government decides whether or not to back Liverpool City Council’s economic recovery plan, which contains a bid for £200m of funding to kickstart major regeneration projects in the region.
David Topham, managing director of CTP, said: “If we’re going to prepare for the end of this, we need to act now and support projects, which supports jobs and livelihoods, skills and training.
“It keeps the level of economic activity up. It helps kick the city on in so many ways: the £200m they get might release £1bn of new development activity, and the economic benefit of that could be enormous.”
Should the funding not be released, Topham said, this could set back projects in the pipeline for the region. “If there are [shovel-ready projects] ready… then get behind them and get them delivered,” he said.
“Because if those all fail, then the next round of projects are years behind. The pipeline of development gets stalled, and economic activity of the built environment gets stalled.”
Speculation is mounting that Greater Manchester may soon join Merseyside in the highest-risk tier.
Oglesby warned that if this was in the works, it would represent “a draconian approach” that will deepen the disruption to the city.
“My strong preference… is that we don’t enter into tier three at this stage, but rather we get the investment into local test, track and trace and we have the opportunity to demonstrate that a responsible local approach is going to be more effective at keeping infection rates down,” he said.