Nowhere is feeling the economic and social impact of Covid-19 more than UK’s cities and largest towns. They account for around 60% of the country’s economic output and more than half of the population. Once the immediate crisis is over, the Government will need to consider how it can help the towns and cities most economically affected by Coronavirus rebuild their economies.
With 578 cases per 100,000 people, Blackburn is still the city with the highest infection rate. It is followed by Burnley (351) and Preston (272). There is a clear cluster in the North West, as Manchester and Wigan are also among the top 5 cities with the highest infection rate.
At the other end of the spectrum, cities like Ipswich, Derby and Norwich have the lowest infection rate.
Looking at changes since last week, cases have gone up in a large majority of cities (50 in total). Burnley, Warrington and Wigan saw the highest increase. Infection rates more than doubled in a number of cities including Newcastle, Liverpool and Bristol.
The UK’s largest towns and cities entered the pandemic with different economic strengths and weaknesses, different levels and types of employment and different industries. All these factors have affected the nature of economic damage inflicted by Coronavirus and by extent, the nature of economic recovery. Areas in the North and Midlands with weaker low-skill service-based economies have seen the greatest economic damage, making levelling up places like Birmingham, Hull and Blackpool at least four times harder. The pandemic also risks levelling down the economies of previously prosperous places, many in Southern England. Whilst the Fast Growth Cities, for example, entered the pandemic in a stronger position than many other UK cities, they now require short-term support to help them bounce back from Coronavirus and ensure their future growth.
The pandemic has left no corner of the UK unaffected. In places that already had an above average claimant count in March 2020, levelling up is now five times more challenging, with an additional 740,000 people in these areas now claiming unemployment benefits. The introduction of the third national lockdown at the beginning of January 2021 has led to an increase in the number of workers across the country using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Crawley continues to be most reliant on the furlough scheme, followed by places like Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth. That said, there are fewer people on furlough now than during the first lockdown and the claimant count rate remains stable, both of which point towards the success of Government interventions to protect jobs.
The economies of most UK cities have weathered the storm – with the exception of places like Crawley, Slough and Luton- and recent analysis points towards a sharp bounce back from the Covid-19 recession. However, different places will now need different policy responses in line with the economic challenges they face. For this to happen, the Government needs to publish an Economic Recovery Strategy that addresses the Covid recovery in the short-term and the levelling up agenda in the long-term, in addition to putting local government on a strong and sustainable financial footing.
The restrictions introduced last spring as a response to Coronavirus have triggered an unprecedented hollowing-out of our city centres. Our High Street Tracker, launched last June, uses near-real-time footfall and spend data to monitor the recovery of the 63 largest city centres in the UK. City centres have coped very differently with the pandemic. Whilst all city centres experienced a significant drop in pedestrian activity back in April 2020, it fell the most in larger cities like London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Some cities are now showing early signs of bouncing back, but whether or not office workers will return to city centres will be key for their economic recovery. The pandemic has also called into question the future of the high street in the face of online shopping. While we still do not know whether or not the changes we have observed this year will be permanent, pre-pandemic data shows us that what matters is local spending power, and that there is not necessarily a relationship between vacancy rates on the high street and online shopping trends.
Aversion to city centres has persisted throughout the course of Covid-19. Even before the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown on Tuesday 24 March 2020, city centre workers had responded to the pandemic. The scale and the pace of this response was biggest in the largest cities and in particular those with the strongest city centre economies. Increased home working has since driven changes in city centre footfall. London has seen the largest drop and weakest recovery in people at their place of work. Amongst the Core Cities, there was little change in weekday worker footfall from late March to October 2020. City footfall is unlikely to improve until workers return again, and the challenge ahead will be for the Government to help city centres get back on their feet by encouraging workers to return to the office once it is safe to do so.
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This report investigates the development of the Fast Growth Cities, shining a light on the additional challenges this group has faced due to the pandemic and exploring how best to unlock their further growth and future success.
This briefing examines the economic impact of Covid-19 from the first national lockdown to understand how the 11 Core Cities are likely to be affected by continuing restrictions and what the shape of their recovery might look like.
Our latest briefing shows that the Core Cities' city centres have been particularly affected by Covid-19. Policies aimed to kickstart an economic recovery should focus on getting centres working again, in terms of public transport and air quality, commercial property, and investment in skills.
Short-term support to help businesses bounce back from Covid-19 should be combined with the delivery of new housing and transport improvements.
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Join us for the launch of our latest research
Researcher Guilherme Rodrigues explores the different data options available to best monitor how UK cities are performing and recovering in real time.
Where in England has the highest number of new Coronavirus cases?
As the COVID-19 pandemic sends shockwaves through the labour market, Centre for Cities tracks the latest unemployment claim statistics across the UK's cities and largest towns.
Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southampton and co-founder of Centre for Towns, unpacks the findings of his recent co-authored article “The Politics of Levelling Up”.
As the first Labour Mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Nik Johnson should focus on reducing inequalities in the combined authority ensuring everyone can benefit from the growth in the area.
The latest update of the High Streets Recovery Tracker includes spend data up until the end of April and gives a sense of how spending in UK cities and towns is recovering as lockdown restrictions begin to lift.
As the lockdown in response to the Coronavirus pandemic varies across the country, Centre for Cities tracks the recovery of high streets in Britain's cities and large towns.
Job postings in cities and large towns in the North and Midlands are recovering fastest, while London and other cities are lagging.
How to revive the high street after the pandemic.