London’s businesses can boom again after coronavirus
In coronavirus, London faces an unprecedented challenge. To beat it, we have all had to drastically change how we live our lives, temporarily close businesses, and put our economy on ice. It may be a dark time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We’re taking the fight to this horrendous virus, and once it has passed, our city’s businesses could boom once again.
The government’s decision to lock the country down has significantly slowed the spread of the virus and protected our NHS from being overwhelmed by the pandemic. In the past few days, the number of new cases and hospital admissions have slowed, the NHS has proved to have more capacity than needed, and the experts expect that the daily death toll will also soon begin to slow. There is no doubt that by following scientific advice and putting people’s health first that the lockdown will have saved countless lives.
However, these stringent measures have come at a cost. The Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that the UK economy could shrink by 35 per cent in the coming months with more than 2 million people unemployed. This is an eye-watering contraction in Britain’s economy. Although this economic nosedive is worse than the 2008 financial crisis, the Great Depression, and the post-war slump in the 1920s, it is very different in nature.
Unlike previous economic difficulties, this slump was not caused by structural problems in the global economy or market failure. This downturn is a consequence of our efforts to beat coronavirus. When the virus has slowed, we can ease the lockdown measures and fire up the engines of Britain’s economy – something rarely available to countries in the wake of a crisis.
Fundamentally, London’s economy was strong going into this crisis; businesses and consumers were confident, we had high employment, the Brexit debate was over, and many companies were preparing to expand their enterprises. There are many reasons to be confident that, when the virus passes, consumers, entrepreneurs, and businesses will be unleashed, and London’s economy will boom again.
It’s our job as local politicians to ensure this money reaches businesses and that no one loses out from the coronavirus. I am proud that Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea have already paid out around 90% of the government’s grant to small businesses. Local Conservative MPs Greg Hands and Felicity Buchan have been instrumental in ensuring that the government is offering support to all businesses who need it. However, there is more to be done as disappointingly Hammersmith and Fulham’s Labour council is trailing behind with only 60% of the money paid out to small businesses.
As the London Assembly Member for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham, and a Westminster Councillor, I have seen first-hand how this support is saving businesses in London. This money is lifesaving and protecting many businesses in our area, which otherwise would be closed for good by the coronavirus. I have also seen how businesses are innovating to survive; restaurants have become takeaways; gym classes have moved online; sceptical businesses have switched to working from home seamlessly.
I am confident that the measures the government has taken and the hard work by London’s councils will ensure that many businesses are in a steady place to hopefully survive this crisis. It’s important now that we also look ahead to when the lockdown ends. It will not end overnight, it will likely be gradually eased, and it will be a long path to the new normal. It will also take time for the uncertainty for businesses and workers to end – but crucially, they know the government is behind them, and that will do a great deal to boost London’s economic recovery.
As the lockdown is lifted, there will be new opportunities which could bring our city greater prosperity in the wake of this crisis. London’s new normal will likely involve more people working from home, allowing Londoners to work flexibly and balance parental and caring responsibilities. This crisis has also forced every organisation to go online and find new ways of working, potentially bringing savings in the future. In a way, despite social distancing, we are also better connected than ever before, and the high demand for digital meeting places is an open door for London’s fledgeling tech start-ups.
Amidst the doom and gloom which coronavirus has brought, we must remember that this virus will pass. The government’s measures are working, and together we will beat this virus. In its wake, I am confident that London’s businesses will boom again and in turn help fire up the engines of the British economy so we can rebuild after this crisis.
Article by Tony Devenish AM first published by KCW Today.