Delaying end of lockdown will devastate West End, says council leader

·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

London’s West End will be left “devastated” if the government goes ahead with plans to postpone the end of lockdown by four weeks, a council leader has said.

Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, said central London “cannot afford any slippage” as it fights to revive its economy after Covid. Boris Johnson is expected to announce the delay in a press conference on Monday evening.

“We are all braced for a delay today in the lifting of social distancing rules,” Ms Robathan said. “While that will be extremely disappointing and devastating for some sectors, the government’s priority has got to be to protect people’s health.

“But central London cannot afford any slippage in the fight to revive our economy.

“Footfall numbers are still down, office workers are staying away in significant numbers and central areas of the city are hurting.”

Ms Robathan said there was a “huge amount of work going on” in the area and appealed for further financial support for businesses stricken by the pandemic.

“So any further delay should come with a support package to help our businesses survive,” she said.

“These are desperate times for theatre owners and the creative industries, and some have made it clear to me their businesses are just not viable unless social distancing is lifted soon.

“This is particularly harsh when you see how much theatres have done to make their premises Covid-secure for audiences and the cast.

“The creative industries are a major employer, and a multi-million earner for the capital with visitors to the West End spending money in our shops, restaurants and hotels.

“Our cultural institutions need clarity and certainty on the rules around social distancing so they can make their productions pay.”

Boris Johnson is expected to address the issue of support for businesses when he sets out his plans on Monday evening, according to health minister Edward Argar.

Asked if the furlough scheme would be extended, Mr Argar told Sky News: “I know that when he addresses his decision, sets out what he intends to do around the easing on the 21st, he will address those points as well.

“I think he is very mindful of the need for businesses and others to get the support they need if they continue to be locked down or unable to open.

“But I don’t want to pre-empt what he will say, but I know he is very sensitive to those factors.”

It is expected that any delay to the easing of lockdown will impact on the hospitality and entertainment sector’s ability to reopen at increased capacity.

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