High streets and shopping areas across Merseyside are in line for a £1.2 million boost as national plans get underway to help them get back to business.
Councillors in Wirral are calling for the money to be used as part of a local recovery plan that would also see the current suspension of parking charges in the borough made permanent.
To prepare for the reopening of non-essential retail, the new fund is designed will help councils introduce a range of safety measures in a move to kick-start local economies, get people back to work and customers back to the shops.
It will also support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and temporary barriers. This will help get businesses get ready for when they can begin trading safely, not only in high streets and town and city centres, but also in other public spaces like beachfronts and promenades.
Councillor Jenny Johnson (Conservative, West Kirby & Thurstaston Ward) said: “Wirral’s high streets and local shopping areas are critical to the economic recovery of our Borough. The last 10 weeks has shown how important our local shops are.
“The Council took the right step in suspending parking charges in our shopping areas and country parks. Now it’s time we recognised their importance to our Borough and make it permanent.
“By encouraging more people to shop locally, we can reduce car journeys and also help to keep more money in our local communities.
“The extra money announced this week must be used in practical ways to support our shops and local businesses and not wasted on expensive consultant reports.”
Wirral Council will receive an extra £286,000, on top of more than £90 million that has already been provided in Government grants.
Parking charges in West Kirby, Liscard, Bebington and Heswall would be among those to be scrapped under the plan, as well as the Borough’s country parks.
High Streets Minister Simon Clarke MP added: “As we begin to slowly return to normality, the re-opening our high streets will be key to kick-starting our economic recovery.
“Many businesses have already introduced creative ways of trading such as contactless collection or taking orders by instant messaging and shows that they are ready for the challenges ahead.
“That’s why we are providing an extra £50 million for councils to support a range of safety measures that will help get these businesses back on track and ensure that people can enjoy their time visiting their local high street safely again.”
COVID-secure guidelines have also been published for people who work in or run shops, branches, and stores. This guidance supports shops that are currently open, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, but will also be useful for those in non-essential retail to consider now for when they are allowed to open.