Pre covid, the number of people who worked in Greater Manchester’s night-time economy alone stood at 414,000, which is 33% of Greater Manchester’s workforce, but as the rest of the country emerged from the first lockdown last year Greater Manchester was quickly propelled back into restrictions, with limited financial support. Half of businesses now do not expect to break even until the end of 2021. The insolvency risk has grown month on month in the sector and is now at its highest point since at least April 2020. UKHospitality predicts that a failure to act now to solve the rent crisis could trigger thousands of hospitality businesses to fail across the UK.
So what must the Government do? There are a few urgent steps they could take today. First, they could ensure that the millions still excluded from Government support receive financial support equivalent to the self-employment income support scheme and that this support is backdated. Secondly, they could provide Government-backed insurance and event cancellation insurance to give businesses and events full confidence to reopen and plan for the future when restrictions lift. Thirdly, they could provide an urgent and significant sector support package for hospitality, events and tourism, including a Government-backed solution to spiralling rent and commercial debt arrears, and revisit the business rates cap, which unfairly penalises large numbers of hospitality businesses, which will find themselves paying full rates just days after restrictions are fully lifted in June.
Fourthly, the Government could protect local brewers and micro-pubs by stopping the tax hike in proposed changes to the small brewers relief and review beer duty. Lastly, they could protect workers by ensuring that the furlough scheme can run for as long as it is needed; increasing statutory sick pay to a level that people can actually live on; and setting up a hospitality commission to identify a sector recovery plan as well as investigate unscrupulous and exploitative practices where they are found in the industry, such as fire and rehire and the denigration of employment terms.
All we ask for in Greater Manchester is the ability to protect jobs and income while we keep people safe and get back on our feet. So if the Government want to back their levelling-up rhetoric with real action, they will provide the economic support our workers and businesses need.