Leeds city centre’s economy could shrink by a quarter as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a Calverley and Farsley councillor has warned, writes Richard Beecham.
Executive board member and leader of Leeds City Council’s Conservatives group Andrew Carter said the projected lost revenue to the city centre between March and the end of May could be as much as £338m.
During an online meeting of the council’s executive board, he claimed the impact this could have on businesses could be serious and devastating.
It follows a report which went to members of the panel, which suggests businesses particularly affected by Covid-19 include suppliers to retail/hospitality and leisure industries, the self-employed and those in shared workplaces.
It added the council was continuing to deal with ‘more complex cases’ and to work closely with landlords to get grants to tenants where possible.
Coun Andrew Carter said:
“The hospitality industry has been massively affected. When you link that to the economy of the city of Leeds, when you look at the at the lost revenue projected in the city centre between March and the end of May being forecast as £338m.
“That is 25 percent of the total city centre economy. Whatever percentage it is, it is massive and the recovery of that sector will be crucial in terms of the life of the city, job opportunities and local businesses – we have to do a lot of work drilling down into what we can do as an authority to help.
“There is something in this for us in terms of the tax revenues that flow from it, but it is a desperate situation. It is an area we need to focus on very clearly – the level of destruction of the economy is serious and could be devastating.”
Leeds City Council director Martin Farrington said:
“Coun Carter is right in highlighting that area as one that is significantly impacted.
“We have distributed support – we are looking at the design of the top up scheme – they also get the rates relief and make use of the furlough scheme. That sector by its nature is reliant on planning events for the longer term.”
In a statement issued after the meeting, Coun Carter said restarting the economy should be, at least in the short term, the primary goal.
“Beyond the main aim of ensuring the safety of our citizens and preventing any further spikes in the virus, there are lots of competing priorities – and we think the Council needs to focus very strongly on boosting the local economy.
“The Council should be developing its own local schemes to boost
businesses during this time.
“Whilst other challenges such as tackling the climate emergency remain important, we think that, at least in the short term, supporting the local economy should be uppermost in the Council’s mind when considering its recovery strategy. Without a strong economy, we will be less able to meet all those other challenges.”