Centre for Cites think tank and the Fast Growth Cities have warned the government not to overlook the risk that Covid-19 could have on Norwich’s long term prosperity.
The warning came after they unveiled a blueprint for the city’s recovery from the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Norwich had a fast growing local economy, was an important source of employment for people far beyond its council boundaries and its success contributed to the strength of the national economy. However, Norwich has not escaped the economic damage done by the pandemic and could be at risk of being ‘levelled down’ without further support for people and businesses from the government.
Currently, 5.1 per cent of eligible adults in the city are claiming unemployment-related benefits, an increase of 2.6 per cent compared to last March. Additionally, 15.1 per cent of workers in Norwich are being supported by the furlough scheme. Just as Norwich’s success was important for the UK economy pre-Covid, its recovery will be vital in ensuring the wider region and the country bounces back quickly from the pandemic.
The Centre for Cities/Fast Growth Cities blueprint for recovery focuses on six key areas for Norwich to focus on:
- Labour market skills and education
- Businesses and growth
- High streets and city centres
- Housing and planning
- Economic impact of Covid-19
In the short-term it urges the Government and to provide guidance to firms in Norwich so they can make the most of the financial support on offer, such as business support loans that are available. In the longer term, Government support for Norwich’s future economic growth should focus on providing adults with better education opportunities, continuing to attract high-skilled, high-paying businesses into the city, and building more homes to increase affordability in the city. Centre for Cities and Fast Growth Cities also call on the Government to devolve more power and money away from Whitehall and to the council.
Separately, councillor Alan Waters, leader of the city council, and member of Fast Growth Cities’, has urged the government to move forward with plans for Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Along with fellow leaders of the Fast Growth Cities, they have called on the government to extend the planned East-West Rail project to Swindon and Norwich and electrify the line – a move which would help meet the government’s ambition for a zero-carbon future.
Centre for Cities chief executive, Andrew Carter, said: “Norwich has enjoyed several years of economic growth which has benefited people living in the city, and the whole UK through its growing contribution to the treasury. However, it would be a mistake to think that it has escaped the economic damage done by Covid-19 and will need support to bounce back. In the short-term, practical measures to help Norwich’s businesses reopen will be necessary, but in the long-term, more substantive changes to skills and training are needed to protect people’s jobs from economic crashes.”
Cllr Waters said: “This important report reflects on the vital role that cities like Norwich play in the national economy. We already know that the research, innovation and ideas that are generated in our city make it an exciting place to live - but they also attract in investment and jobs. We want Norwich’s economy to work better for all our citizens. We need the investment in skills, training, education and housing to give all our citizens a chance of a good job and a decent home. We can deliver for the UK but we need to make sure that we get the right investment now to recover our economy.”
Copies of the full report are available on request via the Centre for Cities.