The Welcome Back Fund (WBF) provided UK council funding to help encourage visitors back to high streets and town centres in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this report we ask – how successful was it?

The Welcome Back Fund (WBF)

The Welcome Back Fund (WBF) was announced in March 2021 as an extension to the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund (RHSSF). These funds enabled councils to invest in post-Covid recovery and to stimulate economic prosperity, especially through retail and leisure. The implementation period – the period over which councils are required to dispose of WBF funding – ran up until March 31st 2022.

In this report we look back at councils’ performance levels at the time of the Fund’s announcement and compare them to where they ended up in the three months to March 31s. The results are used to rank the best performing councils during the WBF campaign period across four key metrics: footfall, catchment, dwell-time and visit frequency.

Footfall performance

Why is Footfall important? Footfall is the primary metric used by councils, BIDs, retailers and real-estate to measure how many unique visitors are present in the places they manage. One UK council Economic Development Officer even went so far as to say that footfall monitoring is the single most important insight they use to manage places.

How Huq does it: On Huq’s platform, footfall is a count of the actual number of unique people per day present within a measurement area. Each visitor is counted only once each day regardless of where they might have gone within the area, or how many times they visited. Elements of the observation base are filtered out to meet a stricter definition of footfall. For example, static residents do not contribute to the footfall of an area.

Footfall increase during WBF

bar chart showing percentages of visits from places over time to show impact of welcome back funding

Tendring Council, located in Essex at the mouth of the river Thames, takes gold for seeing the greatest increase – 76% – in footfall over the Welcome Back Fund implementation period. That impressive performance is closely followed by Tandridge in Kent with 65% and Cannock Chase, close to Birmingham in the Midlands, at 59%.

Across the top 10 winners, seven are located in the South East of England, two in the Midlands and one in the East of England. Across all councils sampled Huq found there to be a 7% increase in footfall during the WBF implementation period, with those in the top 10 tracking collectively at 40%.


Huq helps 50+ UK councils understand how people use their towns, high-streets and spaces. Its measurement platform offers insights into key performance indicators including:

  • How busy places are
  • Where visitors come from
  • How long they stay for
  • How often they come back

Using quality, first party observations and big data practices, these detailed and verified insights are available immediately, UK-wide. No hardware and no surveys required!