Downing Street refuses to call for Londoners to go back to work

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Downing Street has refused to call for more people to return to their offices, despite increasing fears that decreased foot traffic in central London will cripple the economy.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said today that it was up to individual employers to decide whether to bring back employees, while also refusing to say if Boris Johnson supports growing calls for people to return to work.

Read more: Matt Hancock: There’s one big reason it’s safe to return to the office

When pushed specifically on whether Johnson supported City of London workers returning to the office, the spokesman said it was still up to companies to decide.

This appears to be in contrast with the Prime Minister’s own words earlier this month when he called for people to have “confidence” to return to the workplace.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick earlier this month also pushed for people to return to work, saying “we need to get back [into city and town centres]” to ensure that bricks and mortar retail and hospitality businesses will survive.

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also called for a return to work, saying recently that empty offices were “a big problem” for the economy.

However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was not bullish today about Londoners returning to work in person.

It comes as Johnson today said it was “vitally important” that every English school student returned to the clasroom full time from next week.

“The Prime Minister has been clear it’s for individual workers to speak to their employers and where Covid secure workplaces have been set up it is for the employer to work though that with employee,” the spokesman said.

“If you can’t work from home, you should speak to employers and it’s up to employers to provide secure workplaces.”

From the beginning of August, employers have been given more discretion to bring staff back to the office as long as it is safe.

Over the last couple of months, Square Mile companies have slowly begun to reopen their doors to staff, many of whom are embracing the rise of so-called hybrid working.

Read more: Four-fifths of Londoners want to get back to the office

Joanna Swash, chief executive of customer services and office support provider Moneypenny, told City A.M. today that it was vital for Londoners to return to the office, a view that is growing among business leaders.

New figures from IT provider Atlas Cloud also show four-in-five Londoners want to return to their workplace.

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