CEO of Liverpool BID Company Bill Addy, who represents 1,500 city centre businesses, says COVID-19 restrictions are having a devastating impact. Tony McDonough reports
Footfall in Liverpool city centre has plummeted by a third since August, new data reveals.
Liverpool BID Company, which represents 1,500 businesses in Liverpool city centre, says the new COVID-19 restrictions have led to footfall in September dropping by 425,000 people.
Now BID chief executive Bill Addy is adding his voice to a letter, signed by business groups across the North of England. It has been sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a new approach to the response to the pandemic.
With a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations it is expected the Government will next week order the closure of bars, restaurants and cafes across Merseyside. The ban could also include hair salons.
Business leaders in Liverpool Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, York and Sunderland all fear many businesses could go to the wall leading to a significant number of job losses. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to offer localised wage support schemes but Mr Addy fears it may not be enough.
“The next five weeks is crucial for Northern cities,” he said. “These are vibrant, successful, thriving city centres and visitor economies that risk being left to decline if they do not receive the support we have been calling for since early September.
“We are working to develop a coordinated response across the North, that includes lobbying together with business leaders from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York, Sunderland and Newcastle.
“Christmas is crucial for our high streets and city centres, not just in terms of spend but also footfall and tourism. Our businesses in Liverpool tell us they do between 30 and 50% of their annual trading in this period in the run up to Christmas.
“On retail alone, Christmas in store sales are worth £53.1bn according to the Centre for Retail Research. What is the Government telling these businesses to do? Write off 2020? “
Mr Addy is calling for more clarity for the Government on the science that is underpinning the strategy. He added: “The Government wants to level up the country but it is leaving the North to fall.
“We need struggling businesses to be supported and that means funds now and clear recovery support lines in place. That means jobs being protected. We need a test and trace system that works so we can identify where outbreaks happen and drive numbers down.
“Retail and hospitality businesses have been one of the hardest hit, they have invested tens of thousands of pounds in safety measures. They have had to police the restrictions, been on the receiving end of abuse and ultimately been told their livelihoods are at risk.
“More has been asked of them than almost any sectors. They have played their part, it’s now the Government’s turn to play theirs. Our cities cannot close, the country can’t afford them to.”