Doncaster’s economy will not be able to be ‘switched back on’ to pre-pandemic times

Doncaster’s economy will not be able to be ‘switched back on’ to pre-pandemic times and some business sectors could ‘take years’ to fully recover, the council’s top boss has said.

Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 10:16 am
Updated Friday, 1st May 2020, 12:29 pm

Damian Allen, council chief executive, speaking to members of Doncaster Chamber of Commerce via videoconferencing, said the council was doing all it could to assist businesses during these difficult times

The comments come after independent analysis of spending habits across the country shows a 68 per cent drop in non-grocery spending and a 18 per cent rise in money passing through supermarket tills in Doncaster.

Consumer spending in Doncaster is down by 47 per cent overall, according to figures collated by Tortoise Media.

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Doncaster Council, based at the Civic Offices

Mr Allen said the government had provided ‘unprecedented’ measures and responses to local councils in order to help businesses and communities.

The council already put up £5 million of its own money, but central government has since provided two pots of money worth £12.5m in order to facilitate the coronavirus response.

A third tranche of funding is expected in the coming weeks.

Mr Allen did say the local authority was lobbying government to relax the rules on how the £64m of business rates relief to Doncaster businesses could be administered.

The council has more than 9,000 small businesses, but under 6,000 are eligible for relief funding through Government criteria.

Mr Allen said: “In terms of the local economy, it would be a case where we can’t just switch it back on and it is going to take years for some sectors and we need to be mindful of that.

“The hardest-hit sectors that we’re seeing are the non-food retail, hospitality, arts, recreation and tourism.

“We have 9,050 registered businesses in the borough and 90 per cent of those are micro-firms with nine of less employees and they are bearing the brunt as most of them are relying on footfall and can’t work remotely, have cash flow challenges and don’t often have the reserves to draw upon.

“The phrase ‘we’re all in the same boat’ is often used, but actually we know that different places will see differing effects and we know that Covid-19 will drive further inequality across the system.”