I had the pleasure of joining three excellent speakers this Thursday, Laura Citron from London & Partners, Jonathan Martin from LB Waltham Forest, and Lisa Taylor from Coherent Cities, to discuss one of the most pressing topics facing all of us at the moment. Learning from the past and present, we can start to piece together the ways in which the longer term economic recovery from Covid-19 will begin to take shape. My three take-away messages from the discussion are as follows:
- Restoring confidence for a return of workers and visitors to our biggest cities needs to be a key part of the national recovery strategy. Whilst evidence suggests that smaller towns and cities are recovering relatively quickly (or even experiencing a boost in trade above normal levels due to the number of home-based workers not commuting into cities), it is vital for our national recovery that London and other globally-minded cities such as Edinburgh are able to open up to international inward investment, tourism and students as quickly as it is safe to do so. These locations act as key gateways for investment into the UK, and they need to be supported.
- Having a plan for local economic recovery that responds to local strengths and weaknesses whilst building resilience is key. We heard details on LB Waltham Forest’s statement of intent to investors - and capitalising on the Borough’s economic and cultural strengths was a key component of this. There will be lots of innovative ideas and interventions coming forward in the coming months and years, but it is important that the right ones are chosen for a given location - what works in Walthamstow might not translate to work as well in Walsall.
- We all need to make the most of the opportunity to do things differently. Even before Covid-19, we were already facing a climate emergency, we had growing inequalities both between places and between groups in society, and we had a looming crisis in our health and social care system driven by a combination of austerity and a rapidly ageing population. The indication is that Government will look to spend significant sums to catalyse the recovery, so extracting wider economic and social value from this investment will be crucial.