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Sir Nigel Wilson
Group Chief Executive
In mid-2020, as the UK was emerging from its first lockdown, the Government was keen to get people back into the workplace, to help pump money back into city centres and transport infrastructure. However, a new report by cross-party think-tank Demos, commissioned by Legal & General, reveals that during lockdown, people have rekindled a relationship with their local area and amenities. It also shows that bringing in widespread remote-working policies could effectively level up the UK economy, by encouraging people to stay local.
The report, Post Pandemic Places, finds that people’s relationship with ‘place’ has become a lot stronger over the past year, with two-thirds of people’s workplace changing during the pandemic, either due to requirements to work from home or furlough. Evidence suggests that this strengthened relationship between person and place will increase spend in local areas where remote working continues. “This major shift to remote and flexible working has led to a desire for spending more cash and more time locally. In other words, flexible working has the opportunity to make local areas thrive beyond expectations,” explains Kitty Ussher, Chief Economic Advisor at Demos and author of the report.
Flexible working has the opportunity to make local areas thrive beyond expectations.
People are looking forward to spending more money than they did before the pandemic in their local neighbourhoods and town centres when restrictions are lifted. This is even more likely for people who will remain working from home. More than 55 per cent of the 20,000 people surveyed said that good local shops, supportive communities and premises to support local jobs are now more important. As a result of these findings, Demos is calling on the Government to promote remote working as a regeneration tool.
One of our concerns as restrictions lift is that the UK might fall into a K-shaped post-pandemic recovery, whereby different areas of the UK recover at different rates, returning to a geographical-based economic inequality. It’s for this reason that we’ve launched our Rebuilding Britain Index, which tracks the Government’s investment across the UK, supporting the Government in moving towards an inclusive post-pandemic recovery. But Post Pandemic Places shows that if people are offered the opportunity to work remotely, their spend can stay local. The implications of such a cash injection are particularly important when considering how this could help level-up densely populated, lower-income areas.
As part of its call on the Government to promote remote working as a tool to aid regeneration, Demos points out that the Government has in fact previously stated it intends to make all jobs flexible by default.
Demos suggest this can be achieved by initiatives such as tax incentives to encourage the use of remote-working desk space, and the building of ‘15-minute neighbourhoods’ which offer residents places to meet and work on their doorstep or, in theory, 15 minutes away.
Covid-19 has driven major change to people’s lives and global economies. Our ideas around what we need from our homes, workplace and communities have been challenged.
To drive a local- and community-based post-pandemic recovery, it’s important to put the power in the hands of local teams. As Nigel Wilson, Legal & General CEO, explains in the report’s foreword, a top-down levelling-up agenda is far less likely to be successful, and the right powers and funding need to be given to local communities to ensure that investment is used where it’s needed most.
“Covid-19 has driven major change to people’s lives and global economies. Our ideas around what we need from our homes, workplace and communities have been challenged,” says Wilson. “Governments and businesses need to work together to incentivise the creation of working space that drives productivity, whilst helping to push spending power out across the country, driving forward regeneration and levelling up.”
To find out more, read the Post Pandemic Places research here.