Editor: We fully support the move to extend the business rates holiday and furlough scheme, and to introduce Restart Grants, which will help the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors bridge the gap until the restrictions are eased and trading can resume.
But we hoped there would be more recognition in the Budget of the challenges facing city centres, which make an enormous national contribution and have been disproportionately affected by the absence of workers and tourists.
Beyond funding, there are many levers government can pull. We hoped to see indications that Sunak would consider radical and forward-looking policies to help city centre businesses adapt to a new normal, such as flexibility around planning, trading and licensing hours.
He also missed the opportunity to reverse the decision to end tax-free shopping for tourists, which will deter international visitors and decrease footfall to the struggling businesses he is trying to protect through the business rates holiday.
To support the return of office workers, we need clear guidance on the reoccupation of workplaces and plans to manage congestion on public transport.
We also call for the speedy and fundamental review of business rates to make the system fit for purpose, fair and responsive to a 21st century digital economy.
The government has provided significant and essential support to help businesses and protect jobs. It must ensure that the support given is not wasted, with a more ambitious plan for city centres as the engines of the economic recovery.
Olivia Harris, chair, Westminster Property Association