Today is truly a significant moment for businesses and households across the nation, as social and economic COVID-19 restrictions in England are finally eased.
It’s been a long journey, but for the City, after many months of quiet we can now breathe a collective sigh of relief, as workers and visitors start to return to the Square Mile in greater numbers.
I look forward to seeing many more people on our streets in the coming weeks as the buzz and energy that defines the City returns.
The Lord Mayor, William Russell, will be showing his support too by visiting many of our local businesses this week, including City institutions such as the Ned, Sweetings Restaurant and Billingsgate Roman Bathhouse. Meanwhile churches across the Square Mile are holding a celebratory ‘ringing of the bells’ on July 31.
But while legal restrictions on our lives may have ended, we shouldn’t forget that we are still learning to live with the virus. We need to continue to be guided by the data and the science.
That doesn’t mean of course that we should continue to stay away from the office – far from it. To this extent, on Thursday 22 July, the Court of Common Council – the City of London Corporation’s main decision-making body – will be leading the return as it resumes in-person meetings for the first time in over a year.
Elected Members will discuss a number of key issues, including the City Corporation’s crucial plans for supporting business as they emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
In order to support firms as they resume trading, the City of London Corporation has taken a string of measures to help, including a Covid Business Recovery Fund of up to £50 million aimed at qualifying SMEs, which has been extended until 30 July.
But there is more to be done.
The implementation of the plans of our Recovery Taskforce, launched last year, will be fundamental to ensuring that the City remains the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable centre by adapting to post-pandemic economic and social trends.
It is crucial that we enhance the City’s competitiveness and attractiveness to business, focusing on the three key dimensions of the Square Mile’s offer: its world class business ecosystem, its vibrant cultural offer and outstanding environments.
And also that we support businesses as they move into a new era. It is clear from all we hear that we won’t be going back to quite how it was before. Businesses tell us that though they are committed to staying in the City they are considering changes in their working patterns.
We also have the opportunity to look for innovative ways to build back better.
The City of London has faced many challenges over its long history. Traditionally, it has used every obstacle as an opportunity for change. Indeed, here in the Square Mile, tradition and change have long gone hand in hand.
Therefore I am confident that if we take stock and pull together, the aftermath of this pandemic will be an opportunity roll up our sleeves and build back better, greener and more sustainably.