Barrow-in-Furness: How did the town fare in the Chancellor's Budget?


Barrow's high street was already struggling before the pandemic. Over the last year or so, it's lost huge names like M&S, Debenhams, Topshop, River Island and more. 

But of course when jobs are lost other things go with it, like confidence, investment and hope.

Many Barrow residents work on the high street, but the town centre has been struggling.

Barrow's isolation, shop closures and now Covid have all conspired to paint a bleak picture.

We do have healthy employment opportunities in with BAE Systems and the supply chain, but we need to have other sectors where we can. We can support people into employment and the retail sectors is a huge sector. I mean so you know trying to to have a vibrant retail sector is key and we need the government to understand how important it is.

Colin Garnett, Barrow Business Improvement District
Colin Garnett from Barrow's Business Improvement District Credit: ITV News

A £5 billion fund for the High Street might help some people. But some say it won't be enough, and what they're calling for is an overhaul of business rates.

Martin Crooks, owner of Crooks Motorcycles said:"You only have to look at the High Street, just up here and how many shops are empty, you know, and it is very frustrating to see that and upsetting as well and sort of the heart and soul has been ripped out of a lot of town centres."

Barrow has the largest concentration of worklessness in Cumbria.

For those struggling financially through the pandemic, an extension to the £20 weekly increase of Universal Credit is a life-saver.

Romany is a magician and has had to move house because of the crisis. She has worked all around the world, on cruise ships, in theatres and at festivals.

But all that vanished when the crisis hit - and with no government help, she feels she's one of millions ignored by the Chancellor.

"I hoped that Rishi would do the right thing. I hoped he'd be honest. I'd hope he looked at people like me and freelancers and self-employed and small businesses and give us the same support that he's given to employ people and three million people have been clamoring all year to be fairly treated, and we haven't been, and we still haven't been. So I don't get it."

Becky and Eddie Grayless Credit: ITV News

Becky and Eddie were also hoping for good news. Their house sale has fallen twice. They found another buyer six months ago but are still waiting to complete.

"Since September, you know, we seemed to be going really good to get the house sold and obviously, at that point, we had the end of March in view with regards to the stamp duty holiday, not particularly worried at that point because everything was going so well. Obviously as we've got closer and closer to the end of March, deadline for that, it's become quite worrying."

"If the stamp duty holiday isn't extended home in the budget today, that the whole chain could collapse again."

Plans for Barrow to be part of a new Freeport, with all the tax breaks that go with it, were dashed with the Chancellor's Budget. The fortunes of the Cumbrian town remain unsettled - and it will take more than one budget to turn them around.