Downtown survey shows devastating impact of COVID-19

In a stark new survey, Liverpool-based lobby and networking organisation Downtown in Business reveals the full impact of the coronavirus crisis on Mersey and northern firms. Tony McDonough reports 

coronavirus, disease, virus, flu, infection
The coronavirus epidemic has been devastating for many businesses


More than 80% of businesses in Merseyside and across the north of England expect to cut jobs in the next 12 months in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a new research reveals.

Liverpool-based lobby and networking organisation, Downtown in Business (DIB), has released its latest survey of firms in the north and it paints a bleak picture with 81% of businesses expecting to make redundancies in the next year.

And, despite the Government spending billions of pounds on business support grants and loans, 86% of companies believe that the its is favouring those in London over those in the North.

Since lockdown was imposed on March 23 large parts of the economy have shut down and, according to the survey, 73% of businesses believe it will take them three years to get to the same level of trade that they were enjoying before the COVID crisis.

DIB chief executive, Frank McKenna, said: “We wanted to understand what the ‘S’ within the SME sector was feeling through this crisis – and the results do not make for optimistic reading.

“It is interesting that Northern businesses believe the Government favour companies in the capital. There is a feeling that London-based firms have easier access to finance and it did not go unnoticed that a large chunk of cash has been awarded to Transport for London in recent weeks.

“What has perhaps not been acknowledged by northern businesses is that this cash has come with strings – nor perhaps is there a recognition of how important the capital remains to UK PLC.

Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business. Picture by Tony McDonough


“The survey clearly shows that if the Government wants to convince businesspeople in the North that they are serious about its economic ‘levelling-up’ agenda, then it has a long way to go.”

In more positive news for the Government, the survey showed that the business support packages put in place by Chancellor Rishi Sunak were rated as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’, with ‘furloughing’ identified as the most useful measure introduced by over 70% of respondents.

Mr McKenna added: “I have heard people describing the aftermath of this crisis as comparable with the crash of 2008 or the recession of 1993. If these findings on redundancies are accurate, then what we will see is far worse than that. It feels more like a return to the 1980s.

“During that decade, Northern cities suffered a huge decline from which it took them years to recover. I hope that the Government have a more ambitious and aspirational vision for our core cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle than was the case back then.”

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