Two weeks ago today, on the morning of the Chancellor’s statement, the Chamber released a piece of research looking at the fragility of the North East economy
In that report, I highlighted how many of the North East’s long term weaknesses had been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, and argued that a regionally varied response was needed for our economy to recover.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much by way of regional or sector variation in the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs – instead there was support for those bringing back furloughed workers, some (modest, in my opinion) customer boosting measures for the hospitality and accommodation sectors, as well as for the housing market.
The latest statistics on furlough take up make it easy to see where the impact is being felt.
There are 329,500 people furloughed in the North East, with more than 200,000 of those in just four sectors – retail (63,000), accommodation and food service (58,700), manufacturing (47,700) and construction (31,500).
Supporting those businesses will be vital to the region’s economic recovery.
Thinking specifically about the accommodation and food sector, not only is that sector second highest in number terms, it’s also the highest in proportion, with 74% of the workforce having been furloughed. Only the arts, entertainment and recreation sector has closed on a similar scale, with a 71% furlough take up rate.
The Chancellor’s measures, including a VAT cut and a discount scheme for those eating out, might help to an extent, but those businesses – our hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes – are going to need are going to need our support too.
Not everyone will be comfortable dining out or planning a staycation just yet, nor will everyone necessarily have money to spend during what is a financially turbulent time for many, but we can all help spread the word.
Hotels across the region are reopening both for leisure visitors and for contractors as construction and the trades get going again.
Restaurants might be offering a click and collect service.
Pubs and bars might be doing takeaway drinks if they don’t have the space to viably open for sit-in customers.
Safety is still the top priority, and we can’t lose sight of that with the threat of local lockdowns now on us.
But, if we spend where we can and spread the word as much as we can, we can all play a part in starting the economic recovery too.