WARRINGTON is recovering from the impact of the pandemic more rapidly than Manchester and Liverpool according to new figures indicate.

The statistics from the Centre for Cities show that smaller urban centres – which also include Wigan, Blackpool, Blackburn, Burnley, Preston and Birkenhead – are all outperforming the region’s two big cities in terms of the recovery in footfall, spending and the number of workers returning.

The insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 says the figures may provide some hope for ailing town centres.

And it says people are preferring to stay local rather than travelling to big cities – reversing the trend of previous years.

Footfall in Warrington has recovered to 97 per cent of pre-lockdown levels, while spending is at 96 per cent of previous levels. By contrast, in Liverpool footfall is at 57 per cent of previous levels and spending at 84 per cent, while in Manchester footfall is at 41 per cent and spending at 64 per cent, the lowest in the region.

The two cities also had the lowest proportion of people returning to work, at 17 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. This compares to Warrington where 27 per cent are back in the office.

Allan Cadman, north west chair of R3 and a partner at insolvency firm Poppleton & Appleby, said: “The pandemic appears to have partially reversed the pattern of recent years when the big cities were booming and smaller towns in decline. People appear to be staying local, while foreign travel restrictions and good weather have boosted trade in seaside locations.

“It could offer fresh opportunities for towns like Warrington to start to reinvent themselves and rebuild their economies. However, it will pose challenges for Manchester and Liverpool, whose previous strength in having a captive audience of white collar workers, many of them commuters, has now become an Achilles heel.

“Many professionals and digital workers can more easily work from home – and we know that many larger employers have told workers they do not have to return the office until the New Year at the earliest. We do not as a result expect office or workplace attendance to return to previous levels any time soon. Ultimately, it is likely that big cities will remain the centres of our cultural and commercial life, but there could be some painful adjustments ahead.

“In the meantime, we urge business owners who are worried about their finances to seek advice from a qualified and reputable professional at the earliest stage.”