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  • by Karma Loveday

New group calls out lack of progress on unwinding Covid vacant flags

MOSL, Ofwat and CCW have formed a Covid 19 Transition Review Group to assess market progress on unwinding Covid vacancy measures.

The group, which will meet fortnightly, met for the first time at the end of August and immediately agreed to contact a number of retailers, “expressing concern that they were yet to make any significant progress towards changes to their portfolio of ex-Covid 19 vacant premises to ‘occupied’ or ‘assured vacants’.” The temporary vacant flag expired at the end of July, and retailers have until the end of September to remove the flags in CMOS.

To support the work, MOSL said it would implement an Additional Performance Indicator (API) around levels of ex-Covid 19 vacant premises which have not been evidenced as vacant or confirmed as occupied.

The fortnightly review sessions will form a key part of the assurance process on transitioning out of Covid, detailed in a document published alongside a joint letter informing the market about the formation of the new group. MOSL said it would “act quickly and decisively where we see trends, behaviours and activity levels which either give cause for concern, or merit being called out as good practice”.

Once the initial monitoring period is over, the group will consider next steps as appropriate. It noted: “Ofwat has a range of tools at its disposal, including enforcement action, should it have concerns around how retailers have approached the removal of temporary vacant flags and use of Yearly Volume Estimates and does not rule out the possibility of introducing a financial incentive associated with this if it deems it appropriate.”


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