Cambridge City Council has ‘welcomed’ a report outlining the economic impacts of Covid-19 on cities across the UK, which suggests that while Cambridge’s economy remains ‘strong’ a number of measures ought to be put in place.
The January 2021 report, ‘Cities Outlook 2021’ by the Centre for Cities, reveals the scale of the economic challenge to the UK brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting the UK government’s strategy of ‘levelling up’ areas across the country has at least quadrupled in its level of difficulty.
Though the report is not solely concerned with Cambridge, the economic challenge for the city remains significant. Figures from Parliament note that the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits in the city stood at 3,415 in December 2020, an increase of 148% on March.
Despite the many economic problems that the pandemic has generated in Cambridge, the report suggests that city has the potential to quickly recover economically. With a high number of ‘exporting jobs’, the report places Cambridge in the ‘strong economies’ category, alongside cities such as Norwich, Oxford, and York. This is in contrast to cities such as Swansea and Bradford who are in the ‘levelling up + Covid challenges’ category.
In the short-term, the report recommends continuing the furlough scheme throughout the restriction period and maintaining the increase of £20 in Universal Credit. In the long-term, the report calls for greater levels of investment in transport infrastructure.
Responding to the challenge, the Leader of Cambridge City Council, Lewis Herbert, has said, ‘supporting the recovery of our city centre hospitality and tourism-based businesses will be a focus in Cambridge in 2022-24’.
Reflecting on long-term policy, Councillor Herbert stated that the Council ‘agree with the report’s call for sustained investment in clean, sustainable transport in city areas’.
The report finds that many UK cities have the capacity to ‘bounce back much more quickly’ than they did in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, though it makes clear that the pace of the recovery is likely to be very unequally distributed across the country.