Grim figures show High Street was ALREADY facing disaster before Covid

Grim figures show High Street was ALREADY facing disaster before Covid as Tory veteran Nicholas Soames accuses unions of making it ‘impossible’ for civil servants to return to offices

  • Figures show employment in retail on high street plummeted before coronavirus
  • Fear town and city centres have been hollowed out by people shunning offices 
  • Tory veteran Nicholas Soames accuses unions of making it ‘impossible’ to return 

Grim figures today lay bare the scale of the crisis the high street was facing even before coronavirus hit. 

Employment in shops in town and city centres fell by a quarter in some places between 2015 and 2018, and dropped in three quarters of local authorities.

The figures emerged amid fears that urban areas are being ‘hollowed out’ because so many people are still working from home due to coronavirus.

There are concerns that the destruction of the so-called lunchtime economy will fuel huge numbers of of jobs losses as the impact of the pandemic reverberates. 

Meanwhile, Tory veteran Sir Nicholas Soames has slammed unions for making it ‘impossible’ for civil servants to return to offices.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has analysed figures on the structure of the high street from this year, and the most recent employment figures and residential from 2018.

It found around a third of addresses on the high street in Britain in 2020 belong to retail shops. 

In Chesterfield the numbers working in retail on the high street were down 24.5 per cent between 2015 and 2018, while in Northampton they fell by 23.5 per cent

More than half are residential, while around 10 per cent are offices.

But the ONS said the makeup was changing dramatically even before the lockdown, which forced the closure of all non-essential outlets for months, as the effects of online shopping and other trends were felt.

Employment in retail dropped across all regions between 2015 and 2018, with the exception of the North West where it grew 4 per cent.

In Chesterfield the numbers working in retail on the high street were down 24.5 per cent, while in Northampton they fell by 23.5 per cent. 

There was growth in accommodation and food employment, but those venues are have been among the hardest hit by lockdown – although Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme appears to have given them a boost.  

In an interview with La Repubblica, former MP Sir Nicholas – the grandson of Winston Churchill – said while Covid was ‘very dangerous’ younger people ‘need to get back to work’.

‘The Royal Bank of Scotland announced that all their employees they’re not going back to work until 2021,’ Sir Nicholas said.

‘It’s insane. I’m not in the least bit complacent about Covid. I think it’s a very dangerous illness, it’s looking all the time for someone to infect. 

‘Hand washing etc, we do everything that we should do. But, you know, these young people here, they need to get back to work and they want to get back to work. The government offices here, there’s a department of the Home Office over the road, Department of Transport, the Department of Education out there… What the hell they think they’re playing at? 

‘They’re all sitting at home and this is all because the unions: the unions set a bar, which is impossible to reach. 

‘It’s so bad, if you want to get your passport done now, apparently there’s a three-month wait… Well, that’s ridiculous. 

‘Everything’s going to be washed down and hosed down. 

‘They just made it impossible and I think the government are very wet not to have made say: ”No, we’re not having that. We’re going back to work.”’ 

In an interview with La Repubblica, former MP Sir Nicholas – the grandson of Winston Churchill – said while Covid was ‘very dangerous’ younger people ‘need to get back to work’

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