High Streets could turn into ‘ghost towns’ under local lockdown restrictions – with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, Labour has warned.
The Party is calling for more support for workers and businesses in areas placed under stricter rules to combat local coronavirus outbreaks.
Labour said a £170 million underspend in the Government’s Covid-19 grants programme for businesses in local lockdown areas should be used to safeguard jobs rather than “clawed back” by ministers.
The party estimated that this funding could support an additional 15,000 businesses in areas with local restrictions.
Lockdowns have been reintroduced in Preston, Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire due to local outbreaks.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also imposed localised restrictions in Aberdeen after an outbreak linked to the city’s bars.
Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell said: “It’s a week since local restrictions were put in place in Greater Manchester, and West Yorkshire, yet there has been zero extra support for struggling businesses caught up in this public health crisis.
“We’re seeing a wave of redundancies across the high street, threatening jobs and livelihoods, which could lead to ghost towns, as businesses are forced to shut up shop.
“Unless ministers take action to provide extra help to firms, that wave will turn into a tsunami leading to lasting damage, and the loss of many thousands of jobs, weakening our economy and our ability to recover from the crisis.”
Labour called for a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to protect jobs and help struggling firms, adding that if local areas were able to use the underspend in the coronavirus business grants schemes, it would unlock significant funds for local areas to target help.
Funds should be better focused on struggling businesses and their supply chains, including bed and breakfasts, hotels and cafes in coastal communities, conference centres and music venues, said Labour.