Bracknell town centre has been ranked the most vulnerable in England to the effects of Covid in a report which predicts it will lose 1,505 retail jobs.

Research by accountancy giant KPMG – The future of towns and cities post Covid-19 –  puts the town bottom of 110 towns and cities in a table which combines the impact of home working and loss of retail outlets with the strength of each centre’s cultural assets.

Bracknell is given a score of -2.55, a wide margin from the next lowest, Hemel Hempstead on -1.8. Other Thames Valley centres to come out badly include Basingstoke (third from bottom on -1.7), Guildford (fifth from bottom on -0.88), Swindon (sixth from bottom on 0.86), Slough, (eighth from bottom on -0.76) and Reading (11th from bottom on -0.64).

The best performing in the Thames Valley was Oxford, 18th from top on 0.57. Top of the table was London on 1.32.

The report also showed Basingstoke, Bracknell and Guildford topping the Covid retail job loss table with 2,602 (39 per cent), 1,505 (38 per cent) and 2,031 (37 per cent) respectively.

Bracknell was also joint top with Hemel Hempstead in the table of towns with the highest percentage of all jobs which are expected to continue to be done from home (27.4 per cent).

In its summary, the report states: “Cities like London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester benefit from a strong cultural offering that partially compensates for the loss in commuter footfall and retail outlets on the high street.

“On the other end of the scale, places like Warrington, Basingstoke, Hemel Hempstead and Bracknell are hit relatively hard by the loss of commuter footfall and retail offering, while having more limited cultural offering to attract people to their centres.”

Longstanding Bracknell businessman Richard Knight who runs Lionheart Management, and who has written for Thames Tap about his fears for the town centre, said:  “The pandemic has hit the hospitality and retail sector massively.

“I understand there are predictions of 1,500 retail job losses in Bracknell, which seems to me to be a massive amount. As a Bracknell resident for close to 40 years, I sincerely hope this is not the case.

“Any job losses hurts the town and, on the scale predicted, this would hit the Lexicon and other retail areas of the town very hard. I am sure I speak on behalf of every Bracknell resident that I really hope our town centre thrives once again once we are out the other side.”

The full report can be seen here.

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