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Mayor of London is warned: ‘West End Christmas can’t be lost’

Critics claim Sadiq Khan is not doing enough to support stores as fears grow over jobs losses

06 November, 2020 — By Richard Osley

London mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to bring in measures to support stores as the second lockdown disrupts the run-up to the festive season

LONDON mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to support the idea of “all-hours” shopping in the West End if the new Covid-19 lockdown comes to an end in time for Christmas.

Businesses in central London were dealt a fresh blow when ordered to close from yesterday (Thursday).

It coincides with one of their most important trading periods in the run-up to the festive season and follows a year in which billions of pounds of tourist trade has been lost to the Covid-19 catastrophe.

In theory there are only two shopping weekends left until Christmas but even that is based on the lockdown being lifted after its review date on December 2.

Yesterday Conservative London Assembly members complained Sadiq Khan was not doing enough to encourage tourists back after the lockdown and that “Christmas can’t be lost”.

A row developed over whether he could realistically be expected to encourage visitors to the city when England had just been put into a new lockdown.

Assembly Member Tony Devenish, who is also a Westminster councillor, said: “Once this is over, and I stress not at the moment, will there be support for a call to government to let shops open all hours, including Sundays in the run-up to Christmas, subject obviously to the regulations being loosened because we’ve got to start getting the West End to keep creating the jobs we all need.

“Why is there no economic recovery strategy that’s actually been put in place yet and why do we not seem to have the mayor here again for the second meeting in a row? Once we get lockdown over with, hopefully on December 2, will the mayor get off his backside and shout from the rooftops that London is open?”

He added: “I can’t believe that either Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson as mayor would have been as absent as Sadiq Khan has been. Christmas can’t be lost. For jobs and for our economy. I make a plea that there’s a sense of urgency because overseas visitors and visitors from the rest of the country: they don’t just decide on Monday usually to come to London Tuesday. We need a plan. This is about jobs.”

Primark is among the clothing giants that want to see permission granted for extended hours if the lockdown is lifted in December.

Jules Pipe, one of Sadiq Khan’s deputies – they are appointed, not elected to the position – said: “Once we know the direction of travel, I think then we can start rolling out an approach for how London delivers Christmas for our residents.

“We have this next few weeks to be able to discuss with partners in local government about what is appropriate for different areas.

“If Westminster is up for this, it could be an area in which we all consider embracing a relaxation but, obviously, this is something that we would want to do with local authorities and taking residents and business concerns into account.”

Mr Pipe, a former mayor of Hackney, told the meeting he disagreed that Sadiq Khan had been absent.

“It’s hard for the government or the mayor to predict what is going on on the ground in four to six weeks’ time,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for the mayor today to be saying ‘come now to London, book your flights, come to London in six weeks’ time’.”

He told the meeting: “It wouldn’t have been responsible to try and promote London as an international destination between these lockdowns. I would say it wouldn’t have been consistent and I think it would have been actually dangerous.”

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