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CBI warns of city centre ‘ghost towns’

Words: Huw Morris

The UK’s city centres could become ‘ghost towns’ if the government does not step up efforts to encourage workers to return to offices, according to the CBI.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general said while allowing staff to work from home had helped keep companies afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of businesses that rely on office workers are suffering.

Writing in the Daily Mail, she said the government should see getting people to return to offices and workplaces as important as reopening school. Fairbairn described offices as “vital drivers” of the economy, supporting thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars.

“The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day,” she added. “Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade.

“This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities.”

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should “start to go back to work now if you can”. However, Fairbairn suggested that the government should also use “effective test-and-trace” systems or a campaign to encourage commuters back on to public transport.

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