Tony Reeves said the city’s, ‘Operation Greyhound’, plan has been devised to help businesses get up and running as soon as possible, adding: “We want to demonstrate to investors that we are open for business.”
Taking part in a webinar, Mr Reeves delivered an upbeat message on the city’s recovery prospects and at the same time paid tribute to the work of thousands of council staff, who he said had been, “magnificent” during the COVID-19 crisis.
He said: “Our council staff have been brilliant. They have been volunteering for things well out of their comfort zone. I am so proud of them.”
In conversation with Frank McKenna, DLIB chief executive, Mr Reeves said the council was looking to diminish the damage to Liverpool’s visitor and hospitality economy which he said had been, “knocked sideways” by the pandemic.
The council has at present processed claims in excess of £270m in government support. Especially for hospitality businesses with a rateable value up to £51,000 who have been able to apply for grants of £10,000 or £25,000.
He explained: “I really believe the tourism sector will come back but it will take time. We have some great businesses here. We have legions of small businesses that have driven our economy over the past few years. We have some really strong ideas about how we can use public space to allow restaurants to offer more covers, for example. We need step up and provide some kind of release for those businesses.”
Mr Reeves said the council was in talks with central government on how to set up a discretionary support scheme for small businesses, initially worth around £6m to £7m. He added, “We know that cash is king and we need to get that liquidity into businesses. A lot of people talk about the big events will not come back or we will no longer go to restaurants or nightclubs. I don’t believe that. We will do all of those things again…the fundamentals of Liverpool as a visitor destination are strong and I believe those visitors will come back.”
Referring to Bruntwood’s £12m investment into Sciontec Liverpool, which includes Liverpool Science Park, and the emerging Knowledge Quarter developments in Paddington Village as evidence of the appeal of the sector to investors, Mr Reeves also echoed the comments of leading Liverpool academic, Professor Michael Parkinson, who said the knowledge economy would, over the next few years, play a much bigger role in the city’s economy.
“Liverpool’s knowledge-based assets and businesses are the most adaptable to change and they can help us get the economy moving again as quickly as possible,” he said. “There are absolutely massive opportunities for Liverpool to collaborate with Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor (an innovation district). That could be a world-beating collaboration and we should grab it with both hands.”
He said, it was vital the Government delivered the right strategy for minimising the risk of a second COVID-19 spike, adding, “If we don’t get the health outcomes right then we will not be able to get the economy right – and people will suffer. But he concluded on an upbeat note, saying, “Scousers are a resilient bunch and are optimistic – and if we can’t come back from this, then I don’t know who can.”