Mayor Andy Burnham has said that the ‘hangover’ facing the hospitality industry in the wake of the pandemic is going to be ‘with us for a long time’. Burnham was speaking at the launch of a new Night Time Economy Strategy from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, devised by Manchester’s night time economy advisor Sacha Lord.
He told the Manchester Evening News: “It’s a real worry, particularly with energy bills the way they are. That could be the thing that tips some [businesses] over-the-edge. Things are not back to normal. The impression I think has been given at a national level is that it’s all over, we’re all back, let’s crack on with it.
“The hangover of the pandemic is going to be with us for a long time. Obviously we’re looking at everything we can do to support businesses, all businesses. The challenge we got is the resource.”
Asked if there was more to be done to lean on the government to reduce VAT and business rates back to the discounted levels brought in during the pandemic, he added: “Certainly. One thing that will be part of the negotiation we’ll be having soon with the government in May will be a deepening of our devolution deal, and part of that has got to be conveying how serious things are.
“The Spring statement was nowhere near adequate when it comes to support that individuals and businesses are going to need throughout the rest of this year. October is going to be the crunch point, because that’s going to be when the big rise in energy bills is coming, and there needs to be much, much from the government on the table.”
The new strategy plan aims to support the city’s hospitality sector through a series of initiatives from improving pay in the sector to working with Transport for Greater Manchester to ensure combat problems surrounding late night transport provisions for staff.
The major added in a statement: “There’s no getting away from the fact that the pandemic had a devastating effect on our night time economy. Right from the outset we were clear that employees and businesses had to have proper support, and that no one should be left behind.
“Now, as our towns and cities are coming back from the worst impacts of COVID, the cost-of-living crisis poses a further challenge to trades and livelihoods. We need to act and put in place a plan that recognizes the unique assets and different needs throughout Greater Manchester, and our Night Time Economy Strategy offers that vision for a sector that can recover, thrive, and offer good jobs across our city-region. ”
Speaking to the MEN, Sacha Lord echoed concerns about increasing costs in the immediate future, and hailed previous government lobbying by the region, such as summoning then health secretary Matt Hancock to the High Court over the ‘substantial meal’ and 10pm curfew imposed laws on hospitality during the pandemic.
“What Greater Manchester did better than any other city region was lobbying, coming together as a voice,” he said. “We took Matt Hancock to the High Court, and that benefitted the whole country. Bringing VAT back up to 20% again happened far too quickly, and I was so disappointed, so we have to carry on lobbying the government.
“When we come together as a voice, we can make a difference. Because at the moment, the government just sees us as ‘open’, and we’re back to normal. And we’re not back to normal. I can see it coming, and the next two years are going to be tough.”
Burnham also said that he plans to expand the voluntary Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, which brings businesses together as part of an assessment scheme to improve employment standards across all boroughs of Greater Manchester.
He added: “The night time sector is a significant and incredibly diverse part of our economy, connecting everyone from hospitality and leisure staff, to the taxi and private hire trade, to 24-hour health and social care and manufacturing.
“That’s why, to support this Strategy, we want to bring in more employers to our Good Employment Charter and ensure that the benefits of good jobs and working conditions reach even more people.”
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