Government vows it will still ‘level up’ UK despite coronavirus

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said cities and regions around UK will need to work on recovery plans to ensure their economies bounce back from the coronavirus outbreak.

And Mr Jenrick also said the Government was committed to supporting companies such as Rolls-Royce as they fight to get through the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking at the Government’s daily press conference, Mr Jenrick said that the response to the pandemic – which has taken over virtually all of Government operations – had not affected Ministers’ aim to “level up” regional economies around the country, a central plank of last year’s General Election campaign.

He said that the Government’s commitment to infrastructure “remains undimmed”, and that it was encouraging construction work on major transport and connectivity projects to return where it is safe.

He said: “We will not stop our mission to level up, to unite and to unleash to potential of this country.

“The Prime Minister will set out on Sunday our approach to the second phase of this pandemic, and as we look ahead to support businesses as they move to re-open, my department will continue our work on how our local economies can adapt, evolve, recover and grow.

“We will continue to support mayors and local government leaders who will play a critical role in this work. Every local economy now needs a plan to re-start and recover.

“We will be informing these plans with our own detailed work in areas such as: how workplaces from factories to construction sites to offices can be adapted; how outdoor spaces, leisure and businesses from parks to high streets to markets can be managed; and how public transport networks from the Tube to trams to buses can operate.

“In each case, guided by scientific and medical advice, we want to ensure appropriate and safe social distancing, providing the public with the confidence to return to work and to return to public spaces and public transport knowing that it is always safe to do so.”

He added: “We’re considering how we can create more room in town centres for pedestrians, how we can make it easier to cycle or walk to work, and we’ll work with towns and places whose economies have been hardest hit as the recovery begins.”

Mr Jenrick was also asked by Zena Hawley, from BusinessLive’s sister site Derbyshire Live, about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Rolls-Royce, one of Derby’s key employers. The company is currently consulting with staff over a restructuring plan.

The minister said the Government was committed to supporting businesses and accepted that the aviation sector was strugling with the effects of the outbreak. He also acknowledged how important Rolls-Royce was to Derby and said he was confident the company would have a great future.

Asked about the future of the hospitality sdector in the south West, Mr Jenrick said: “I think we all understand that many businesses across the country are suffering.

“But those in hospitality are particularly poorly equipped to cope with what is happening at the moment.”