The economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic will make it four times harder to level up the North and Midlands, a new study has revealed.
Cities Outlook 2021, published by Centre for Cities, warns the pandemic also risks levelling down prosperous places in southern England. It highlights that 634,000 people outside the Greater South East now need to find secure, well-paid jobs to level up the country, compared to 170,000 last March.
The report found Birmingham, Hull and Blackpool face the biggest levelling up challenge, while London, Crawley and Slough are among the prosperous places of concern due COVID-19’s potential long-term impact.
Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: 'The pledge to level up the North and Midlands was made on the assumption that places in the South would remain prosperous. COVID-19 has shaken this assumption, with cities ranging from London to Crawley now struggling.
'Levelling up the North and Midlands and stopping the South’s levelling down will not be cheap and will require more than short-term handouts. Government support and investment for new businesses in emerging industries will be essential, as will spending on further education to train people to do the good-quality jobs created.'
The report calls on the Government to make the £20 rise in Universal Credit permanent, support jobless people to find good jobs, and consider having a renewed Eat Out to Help Out scheme when safe.
It also warned the Government will need to spend additional money once the health crisis ends to re-train jobless people for roles in emerging industries, improve transport infrastructure in city-regions, and make city centres better places for high-skilled businesses to locate.