West End businesses outline wish list for government to save Christmas and protect London
In the wake of the Prime Minister confirming that Lockdown 2 will be ending on 2 December, with a newly modified three tier system once again set to be implemented, the Heart of London Business Alliance has outlined a Christmas wish list for the government in order to protect central London’s businesses and the wider UK economy.
The Alliance is hoping that London will be placed “in a lower tier given the falling infection rates,” though it’s likely that the capital will be plunged back in to Tier 2 when the various tiers of the country are announced tomorrow (Thursday, 26 November, 2020).
Measures being outlined to make a difference this Christmas include extending retail hours on Sunday, which would allow shops to accommodate more customers while maintaining a greatly reduced customer density, also avoiding queueing.
The proposals also suggest working with TfL on a “pre-Christmas travel package”, including offering two for one travel on public transport – to ease people back in and allow them to see for themselves that visiting central London is a safe and enjoyable activity.
Reintroducing the night tube and pausing the Congestion Charge are other key factors which are suggested could help, as well as promoting the nation’s capital “loudly and proudly” as a unique and safe Christmas experience.
Ros Morgan, Chief Executive of Heart of London Business Alliance, said: “We are pleased to see that the national lockdown will be ending after 2 December as planned. Now we have a confirmed date that lockdown will be lifted, we believe there is still a chance to help central London’s businesses experience a good pre-Christmas period.
“Public health rightly remains the priority, however we are hoping that London will be placed in a lower tier given the falling infection rates. We look forward to people being welcomed back into the capital in a safe and secure way to ensure that Christmas in the West End is not cancelled.
“The unique blend of businesses in London, and particularly the West End, means that so far COVID-19 restrictions have disproportionately affected London’s hospitality, retail and cultural sectors. And, with the likelihood of some form of restrictions continuing well into 2021, business, local government and national government need to work together to get through this critical period.
“That’s why we have outlined a Christmas wish list of both practical and creative measures we believe that the government should consider in order to protect London, the beating heart of the UK’s economy.”
The Heart of London Business Alliance represents the 500 leading businesses and 100 top property owners in around Piccadilly Circus, St James’s, Leicester Square and the St Martin’s area. These parts of the West End are the among the most culturally rich areas in the world and are the epicentre of London’s theatre, cinema and entertainment industry.
Other pre-Christmas suggestions from the Alliance include launching "Culture Vulture" vouchers – an incentive scheme to protect the capital’s theatres and cultural venues once they can reopen, bringing back "Eat Out to Help Out" and backing live events with an insurance scheme.
Poignantly, the wish list includes changing the formula for the discretionary grant to businesses to reflect the number of businesses in a borough, and the business rates collected, rather than the number of residents, as the Alliance says this has “unfairly penalised central London.”