‘A new life for the high street’ — report from the Social Market Foundation

Again, I’m indebted to David Alcock of Anthony Collins Solicitors on whose LinkedIn feed I saw mention of this.

The Social Market Foundation has just published an extremely interesting report called A new life for the high street.

Some will know that I have been trying to keep up with the reports, statements and documents now emerging that have something to say about long-term prospects and strategies for post-coronavirus recovery. This report by the SMF sells itself somewhat short, I think, if one goes only by the title. It sounds as if it couldn’t help but cover the same ground as the recent Bill Grimsey report that I covered in this post and this really isn’t the case.

To my mind, it does significantly more. It isn’t all that long and yet it manages to consider:

  • Repurposing of town and city centres — permanently reduced demand for retail and city centre office space could unlock massive house-building programmes.
  • Writing-off local government debt and increasing the borrowing levels under the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) — making it possible for local councils to invest in community infrastructure and arrest urban decline.
  • The renaissance of the suburbs.
  • A permanent shift to home- and remote-working — but will this only widen inequalities for those whose accommodation is too small for successful home-working, those with families, those in lower-paid jobs and service industries not amenable to home-working?
  • The impact on social capital.
  • Permanent shrinkage of bricks-and-mortar retailing and service sector jobs with disproportionate impact on younger workers and women?
  • Poorer prospects for those ‘divorced’ from their offices?
  • A much more variable picture of the benefits of home-working and individual attitudes to homes-working than some of the headlines now in the media suggests.
  • New waves of entrenched, structural unemployment as some sectors — retailing, service industries, leisure and hospitality — permanently shrink?
  • Who handles the retraining and reskilling workloads?
  • Are Economic Growth Areas (EGAs) the answer?


As I have said in all the other posts, if you are simply trying to keep abreast of at least some of the relevant reports now coming out, or if you are assembling arguments as you try to influence post-coronavirus recovery plans, then this is well worth reading. I’ll be honest: I expected it to be pure boosterism for home-working and rise of the remote, digital white collar professional, but it is a far more nuanced take than that. It is also very well written.

See all posts tagged Covid-19 recovery planning

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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