As you will be aware, yesterday the John Lewis Partnership announced it will not reopen its store in Watford. This is deeply disappointing for both customers and Partners as John Lewis has served our Town well for so many years. For many, John Lewis was synonymous with shopping in our High Street.
Given the impact that this will have on our Town I am in contact with the John Lewis head office for reassurance that their staff will be supported as a priority. I also visited the Intu yesterday to meet with the Centre Director and speak with staff. I want to report back to you the outcome of these conversations.
I was informed that staff will now enter into a consultation process. If redundancies are confirmed, every effort will be made to find new roles for staff who wish to remain within the Partnership. John Lewis has also made a commitment to provide support through a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years, for any Partner with more than two years' service. The Partnership also intends to provide a £1 million Community Investment Fund, which would be shared between the eight affected communities to support local projects.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Watford store was one of eight identified as already financially challenged, and the pandemic has accelerated the switch from shopping in-store to online. Therefore, it is so important to support our High Street and why I am backing the #lovelocalbusiness campaign. I will work with the John Lewis Partnership to ensure those staff made redundant are able to utilise the government’s newly announced funding in retraining and careers advice.
I will do all I can to encourage new stores to open and drive new trade into Watford. Wednesday’s announcement by the Chancellor of £30 billion to support jobs and businesses has undoubtedly come at a time when many have been struggling and need to get customers through their doors.
Watford has always, and will remain, a hub for commerce, trade and employment. As we rebuild our economy following COVID-19, I will work tirelessly to ensure Watford succeeds.