Our Mission

Last modified: 11th February 2021

The Central Activities Zone (CAZ) is the beating heart of London’s – and the UK’s – economy, as home to 4.4% of all UK jobs and a contributor of 7.8% of UK Gross Value Added (GVA) (ONS, 2020). 

While it is unquestionable that COVID-19 has affected every part of the UK, the pandemic has had a particularly devastating impact on central London, causing a significant drop in the number of people travelling in for work and leisure and increasing outward migration. Furthermore, the cost of doing business in the CAZ is substantially higher than elsewhere in the country, with average business rates in the West End amounting to £600,000.

As a strategic economic heart for London and the UK, recovery of the CAZ will be key.  

This complex interconnected and interdependent ecosystem is also vital for the wellbeing of those living and working in London,

This complex interconnected and interdependent ecosystem is also vital for the wellbeing of those living and working in London,

This complex interconnected and interdependent ecosystem is also vital for the wellbeing of those living and working in London,

This complex interconnected and interdependent ecosystem is also vital for the wellbeing of those living and working in London,

Priority asks: giving businesses the certainty they urgently need 

The Greater London Authority (GLA) estimates that over 130,000 workers in the CAZ are on furlough, and that around 14,000 of its enterprises have little or no confidence that they will survive the coming months.

With businesses and employees now grappling with the impacts of a third national lockdown, and with tight restrictions likely to remain in place for months, Government must move urgently to give businesses and their employees the certainty they desperately need to help them beyond the finish line. Many are afraid of a cliff-edge at the end of March and this must be avoided at all costs. 

The Government must move as quickly as possible to:

  • Extend furlough beyond the end of April 2021. 
  • Maintain the business rates holiday and extending the VAT relief scheme until March 2022. 
  • Extend the deferral of all other liabilities until the end of 2021, allowing until mid-2022 to resolve deferred payments and removing the obligation to pay interest on late payments. 
  • Increase the top level of business grants for the largest businesses forced to lock down, and remove the cap on discretionary grants to better reflect the high costs of doing business in London.
  • Deploy the necessary funding and resources to put in place a long-overdue effective testing system.
  • Set out a clear solution for landlords and tenants to address the rent arrears crisis.
  • Introduce targeted support to night-time economy businesses which have been unable to open since March.
  • Introduce targeted support for arts and culture by:
  1. An extension of the Theatre Tax Relief Scheme and the definition of eligible core costs expanded to apply to all production expenditure and ordinary running activities. 
  2. A Government-backed insurance scheme for theatre, arts and cultural institutions similar to that which has been given to film and TV, enabling the confidence and security to produce work without the fear of COVID infections derailing opening and incurring huge costs.
  3. Grant funding to help make cultural venues COVID-19 secure and to enable their reopening.
  4. Tax relief to supply chain businesses that supply the arts and culture sector.
  • Prioritise a clear roadmap that will lead London out of this crisis and help London’s businesses play their role in driving the UK’s economic recovery.

In addition to this, measures must balance the need to encourage sustainable transport with the needs of those who rely on vehicle use during lockdown, including:

  • Relaxing the congestion charge.
  • Working with businesses on the allocations of LTNs and active travel schemes to ensure they support essential movement and the productivity of businesses that rely on road transport.

Beyond lockdown: measures to support economic recovery

As we look ahead to the reopening of our economy, those businesses that survive will have been dealing with the impacts of the pandemic for a year. Many will need support to reopen and/or adapt their operations. The impacts of job losses and prolonged periods of furlough are a growing worry for the workforce. 

The need to support and invest in sustaining London’s global competitiveness should not be underestimated. London has consistently ranked as one of the world’s most attractive cities to live, work and do business. Its unique set of circumstances require a tailored response. Sustaining this position is key to the UK’s competitiveness and reputation, and the CAZ is a vital part of its offering.

The loss of footfall and international travel has left many businesses either unable to open at all or unable to make a profit outside of lockdown. According to the GLA, the footfall at cultural facilities in the CAZ has fallen to around half of pre-COVID-19 levels. Even before the second lockdown, the CAZ was expected to lose out on £10.9bn in tourism expenditure in 2020. Additional support will be needed to encourage the revival of business and commerce in central London, giving long-overdue recognition to the role of arts and culture.

Targeted support for the worst-hit industries:

  • Grant funding to help make cultural venues COVID-19 secure and to enable the reopening of venues.
  • Abolishing the curfew for hospitality businesses.
  • Providing that the necessary safety measures and testing are in place, reintroducing Eat Out to Help Out, and exploring a similar scheme – or voucher scheme – for the culture sector.  
  • Introducing a scheme to fund the difference between ticket sales and break-even point and cover the cost of cancellation in the event of further movement restrictions.
  • Investing in retrofitting buildings to improve their environmental performance and generate economic activity.
  • Reducing VAT on admission for currently non-exempt forms of entertainment, such as “commercial” performances.
  • Working with local authorities and businesses on enabling the creation of suitable outdoor space, enabling businesses in hospitality, culture to adapt operations in line with restrictions.

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Encouraging people back into the CAZ:

  • Clarity of messaging on what restrictions mean for Central London and its business sectors, what people can and cannot do, and which activities are safe.
  • Abolishing the curfew for hospitality businesses.
  • Incentives for new businesses to start up in or move into the CAZ.
  • Reintroducing the night tube. 
  • Extending Sunday trading hours in the international centres.

Helping London rebuild its global competitiveness: 

  • A clearly communicated strategy for exiting lockdown restrictions and ending border closures, along with a roadmap out of the crisis and into recovery.
  • Implementing an effective travel testing scheme that can safely remove the need for self-isolation on arrival as soon as safely possible.
  • Recovering international business travel by introducing a corridor beyond ‘high value’ and new business travellers.
  • Reinstating the VAT refund for overseas visitors indefinitely.
  • Investing in a global destination marketing campaign to encourage local, domestic and international visitors to travel to central London when it is safe to do so. 
  • Investing in supporting businesses and workers at all skills levels to pivot to new opportunities where needed

Getting London’s transport back on its feet:

London needs a long-term plan for transport, so it is vital that a long-term settlement is agreed with Transport for London (TfL). An effective public transport system will be key to encouraging economic activity back into the CAZ and sustaining its competitiveness beyond the pandemic. Investment in London’s transport network should therefore be treated as a solution to building back better, rather than an impediment to national growth. 

The Government should therefore work with TfL to reach a deal that works in the interests of London’s people and businesses as soon as possible. A greener, more sustainable recovery should be at the heart of this settlement, and the Government should seize this opportunity to invest in reducing the central London’s carbon footprint.