Economy in the east slowly recovering but many challenges remain

  • Watch a report by ITV Anglia's Matthew Hudson

As restrictions have been lifted many restaurants, cafes and bars have been looking forward to increased business and a chance to start refilling their coffers.

But that bounce back could be put at risk with a shortage of workers to fill vacant jobs.

Oliver Thain from Cambs Cuisine, which runs the Millworks in Cambridge says they managed to weather the covid storm, but they still face problems.

"A year ago we had no sales at all so we had to make redundancies. Really difficult. When we re-opened we had good sales but we simply didn't have the staff," he said.

"A lot of those staff that were with us found other jobs during lockdown, found employment during lockdown. So very difficult to re-employ in this sector at relatively short notice," Oliver Thain said.

Meanwhile, a new report has looked at what the pandemic has cost Cambridgeshire and Peterborough's economy.

It found that the county lost nearly £500m and disproportionately affected deprived areas.

Cambridge saw a 10% fall in income, according to the latest figures from a report commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, while Fenland dropped by 5%.

The research, Metro Dynamics, said a strong recovery is now underway, largely attributed to a rebound in manufacturing, retail and construction - but levels are still lower than the start of 2020.An area of concern the report identified was the inequality in how the region was affected by covid, and what the recovering will look like.

There was a correlation between areas of pre-existing deprivation and the numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths, as well as an in new Universal Credit claims.

The pattern is most pronounced in Peterborough and Wisbech, but also in Soham, St Neots and parts of Cambridge, where relatively high levels of deprivation are matched by relatively high levels of Covid-19 cases and deaths and increases in Universal Credit claims.

The report said the unequal impacts of the crisis seem likely to spill over into an unequal recovery, with deprived people and places most affected.

Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough says the recovery must benefit all communities. Credit: supplied

Nik Johnson, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, acknowledged that while there had been some recovery in the county, the Combined Authority was determined to make sure it one that benefited all communities.

"My 3Cs of compassion, co-operation and community are crucial here. We must show compassion by giving those places disproportionately affected by Covid-19 the tailored help they need for recovery," he said.

"We must focus on putting strength back into our communities, through helping people either back into work or into better jobs, upskilling, and supporting businesses to invest and grow," Nik Johnson added.

The report found that more than 90 per cent of businesses were back trading and an increasing number reporting improved profits.

Retail, hospitality and entertainment businesses have been most impacted by Covid-19, but there are now signs of recovery in these sectors.

Although job losses at the start of the pandemic were concentrated in these sectors, many businesses are now reporting difficulties hiring staff.

A particular challenge, the report found, was filling jobs previously commonly held by workers from the EU and elsewhere who have left the UK during the pandemic.