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Government launches high street strategy to boost recovery

2-minute read

Catriona Smith

19 July 2021

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The government has launched a new high street strategy to support businesses ‘build back better’ following the pandemic.

A permanent change to al-fresco dining rules and greater powers for local councils are among the measures announced by the Prime Minister in his ‘levelling up’ speech last week.

Boris Johnson’s speech on 15 July at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry revealed how the government plans to support recovery of the British high street.

While there’s been some criticism of the speech, with the Guardian reporting that it ‘lacked substance’, there are some policies worth mentioning.

Al-fresco dining set to continue

Bars, restaurants, and cafés will continue to be allowed to offer al-fresco service.

Rules were temporarily relaxed last year to allow pubs, restaurants, and cafes to serve customers outside when coronavirus restrictions limited mixing indoors. Now pavement licences are to be extended and then made permanent, making it easier and cheaper for restaurants and cafes to set up tables outside and serve more customers.

And takeaway pints will continue for another 12 months as the temporary permissions for off-sales of alcohol are extended in England and Wales.

The ‘levelling up’ speech also announced a UK-wide National High Streets Day, designed to bring communities together to celebrate the high street and drive footfall and spend. A date hasn’t been confirmed for this, but the government says it’ll take place when Covid-19 restrictions allow.

Greater flexibility with ‘County Deals’

A plan to devolve some powers through new 'county deals' was also mentioned. While not much has been revealed when it comes to how this will work in practice, the government says these county deals will help ‘bring decisions closer to people and places’.

By taking devolution of powers across England, the government hopes to provide greater flexibility for councils when it comes to deciding things like transport, skills, and economic support.

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Community fund to buy out pubs

Pubs and hospitality businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Launched last week, the government’s new Community Ownership Fund is giving people the chance to save their local pubs and run them as community-owned businesses. If you own a pub that’s at risk of shutting down, or want to save a venue in your community, there’s a £150m pot being made available to communities across the UK.

The first round of bidding is now open and closes on 15 August. More information on eligible projects and how to bid is available on the government website.

While the ‘levelling up’ speech included headline policies, more details will be published in a white paper on the subject in the autumn.

How do you feel about the latest announcements? Let us know in the comments.

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