I welcome the postponement of the ‘get back to work’ campaign the government was looking to launch, which sought to encourage workers back into the cities. The news comes as research reveals as many as 4 in 10 people who used to drive into work are still working from home. Amongst senior management that figure is even higher.
But 4 in 10 is still very significant, and poses a risk to cities. Not just to coffee shops, sandwich bars, and dry cleaners, but to the much bigger issue of real estate – if there’s fewer people in the office does the company need to pay for such premium city centre offices at all?
We also have to ask about the impact on the transport sector – with train passenger levels at 28% of pre-lockdown levels. It’s a similar story for buses. What is the knock-on effect of less revenue for the train operating companies?
Whilst I recognise the risk to cities, I also recognise the opportunities for towns like Redditch. The government said, just before lockdown, that it wanted to “level up” towns like Redditch. COVID-19 may well have helped to achieve this.
In a letter to our town’s MP I pointed out the increased usage of our parks and open spaces, but our amenities have seen increased usage too as people heed the message to ‘shop local’.
A lot of people commute from Redditch into Birmingham every day – or used to. They’re now staying in Redditch, spending their money here and demanding more amenities.
As conservatives we believe in market solutions – and the market is certainly adapting to the “new normal” here.
Here’s a copy of my letter to Rachel Maclean MP on the topic.