'Don't take city's Covid recovery for granted'

Norwich city history quiz 7. Norwich Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich city history quiz 7. Norwich Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A think tank, the chambers of commerce and a council leader have all warned the government not to take Norwich’s Covid recovery for granted.  

A study by the Centre for Cities (CfC), an independent group aiming to improve the economies of the UK's largest cities, highlights the effect Covid has had on Norwich.

They have warned that without government support for people and businesses, Norwich could be at risk of being ‘levelled down’, which would have a knock-on impact on surrounding towns and villages.  

CfC figures show 5.1pc of eligible adults in Norwich are now claiming unemployment benefits, up 2.6pc from last March and 15.1 per cent of workers are being supported by the furlough scheme.  

The new chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Issuing a warning to the Treasury, 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, the CfC urges the government to provide guidance to firms, so they can make the most of the financial support on offer - such as business support loans.   

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While longer-term, support 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.  

Chris Sargisson, chief executive of Norfolk Chambers of Commerce agreed, saying Norwich’s post-Covid recovery should not be “taken for granted”.  

“There has been lots of great work to support the short-term, practical measures needed to help Norwich’s businesses reopen,” he said.  

"Key to this has been the close collaboration of all stakeholders, including Norwich BID, the local authorities and a wide range of specific businesses. 

“The future will require all businesses to do and think differently.  Flexible working will become the norm and the ability to access a wide range of support digitally is critical.

“Norwich has been a fast-growing economy for a reason, our ability to be innovative and dynamic will sustain our future growth, following a period of disruption.    

“Norfolk businesses will once again be fundamental in driving economic growth and job creation.”  

Norwich council leader Alan Waters echoed calls for investment in skills, training, education and housing, but said we needed the right investment now to recover.