After a tough economic winter, the lifting of the Government’s Plan B restrictions is a much-needed boost for many Square Mile businesses that rely on footfall traffic from neighbouring offices.
These businesses have faced exceptionally difficult trading conditions during the pandemic, with the reintroduction of guidance to work from home last month yet another disappointment. Today, the signs are much more promising. I was pleased to see a queue outside my coffee shop again this morning as the City’s streets spring back to life.
The damage caused by the Omicron variant in health terms may not be as severe as initially feared. We appear to be passing the peak in London.
It is therefore right that we return to some kind of normality which allows people to get about their business and the economy to prosper. At the same time, we all need to remember that Covid-19 has not gone away so, vaccination, and consideration for others, remain just as important.
A key part of the City’s success is our vibrant and diverse ecosystem. This means it is vital that our businesses – many of them SMEs – see their regular customers return. That is why we will be relaunching our ‘Square Smile’ campaign next month to showcase the best of our retail, hospitality, and cultural offer.
Before the introduction of Plan B, footfall in the City had bounced back to 70 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels. I know that many employers and employees will be eager to return to their Square Mile offices after more than a month stuck at home. This return will be aided by the recent reopening of the Waterloo & City line. 2022 should also see the launch of Crossrail, which will bring an additional one million visitors a year to the City.
New year positivity is also supported by continuing confidence from investors and developers. In 2021, a total of over four million square feet of new office floorspace in the Square Mile was given the green light. This represents an increase of almost 70 per cent on the previous year. All these signs point to 2022 being a brighter year in our battle against Covid.
But in the meantime we must support local businesses so that they can get back on their feet, which is why the City of London Corporation has launched a new grant scheme.
This scheme – which goes further than what is being offered by the Government – will provide some relief for firms operating in the Square Mile’s retail, hospitality, leisure and medical sectors that have been particularly hit by the recent restrictions.
An estimated 1,100 businesses are expected to qualify for support as part of the scheme, with those operating from more than one location in the City qualifying for a grant for each location.
The City Corporation will be contacting most businesses that qualify directly and inviting them to apply for this support through an online application process. Other eligible businesses will be able to apply via the City Corporation website.
Many large City firms have proven resilient during the pandemic but we have to remember that 99 per cent of all businesses in the Square Mile are SMEs. So we urge people to come back to the City so that our streets buzz with activity once again. It’s time to put a spring in the step of our businesses and support the green shoots of recovery.London has bounced back before and it will do again as Covid-19 rules are dropped