MAJOR London employers today ripped up plans to encourage more commuters back to offices after Boris Johnson’s appeal to work from home for up to six months.
The reversal has devastated hopes of a steady recovery in the struggling economies of the West End and the City, and raised fears of a new wave of closures and redundancies in the shops, bars and restaurants that rely on spending by office staff.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs said in a memo to staff that its Plumtree Court office will remain open for those that need it but pointed out: “The UK government is now asking people who can work from home to do so.”
About 20 per cent of its 6,000 London staff had come back to the office following a decision to commence a “gradual and careful return” in June. HSBC, which has its global headquarters in Canary Wharf, also halted a “back to the office” programme, while insurance market Lloyd’s of London told its 800 directly employed staff to work from home.
Restaurants said they faced a double hit as the 10pm curfew coming into effect tomorrow has already led to a wave of cancellations. Workers at Hermanos Colombian Coffee Roasters opposite Victoria station said they feared that the guidance to office workers to stay home could “kill us off”. The chain’s takings are 60 per cent down compared with the same time last year.
Transport for London said 798,000 commuters used the Tube yesterday morning, just 33 per cent of usual demand. Bus ridership was 996,000, just over half the normal level.