Urgent plea to Government to help town ‘most affected’ by lockdown

Leaders of the UK town predicted to suffer the biggest economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic have issued an urgent plea for help from the Government.

More than 50% of jobs in Crawley are at risk of being lost or furloughed, according to a recent report.

There are fears that the West Sussex town, located close to Gatwick Airport, could experience an “employment catastrophe” as the economy “most affected” by the Covid-19 lockdown.

The leader of the borough council and the town’s MP have called on the Government to take rapid action and “ensure that Crawley’s amazing economic success, built up over many decades, is not lost in a matter of weeks”.

The letter states: “It is quite clear that the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the national economy and indeed the world economy is unprecedented.

“However, due to the business sectors located within the town, and the proportion of local jobs and economic output from these sectors, Crawley is undeniably being hit far harder than any other part of the United Kingdom.

“These sectors include aviation, transportation, retail/wholesale, leisure and hospitality, all of which are likely to continue to struggle long after the lockdown is lifted.”

It is feared that up to 57% the town’s workforce could be made unemployed, the letter says, referring to a recent Centre for Cities report.

The letter continues: “It is critical that the Government takes urgent action, working with Crawley Borough Council and other local and regional stakeholders, to draw up, fund and implement a programme of targeted economic relief and investment in the town.”

Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said the town generates £124 million in business rates each year for the Government.

He added: “We’ve been helping the public purse for decades – it’s now time for the Government to repay that help.”

Local Tory MP Henry Smith said: “The Crawley and Gatwick economy has been an undoubted success story for many years but the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to negatively impact the area perhaps more than any other UK-wide.”