The chief executive of business lobby group Downtown in Business (DIB) has backed calls from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham for the government to introduce furlough arrangements where local lockdowns take place.

Business leader Frank McKenna, who is calling on the government and regional mayors to review their approach to the criteria being applied for closing down cities and towns said today:

“My preference is for a wholesale review of how we are managing the Covid-19 Crisis. The whole debate is being looked at through the narrow lense of Coronavirus, without economic or other health and wellbeing implications being considered.

“Nonetheless, if draconian local lockdowns are to continue, then Andy Burnham’s call for furlough payments to be made to those companies affected is not only reasonable, but essential, if even greater numbers of job losses are to be avoided.”

Mr McKenna added that just the threat of lockdown and the placing of cities on the government’s ‘risk list’ has had a devastating impact on businesses in those locations.

“In Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds hotels are having to cope with literally hundreds of cancellations. One city centre hotel recorded 200 cancellations last weekend.

“We have also seen a spike in ‘no shows’ in restaurants this week, as the ‘fear factor’ and uncertainty about what the new ‘rule of six’ actually means.

“In addition, supply chains to the hospitality sector are anticipating a swathe of redundancies in the Autumn. Food suppliers, PR and marketing agencies , office suppliers and professional services firms have confirmed to me that they are now in redundancy consultations with staff – and this is only the tip of the iceberg if we don’t get a better grip of the crisis immediately.

“We are on the precipice of an economic meltdown in our core cities. Carrying on with the chaotic, inconsistent and knee-jerk policies that have led to 700,000 people losing their jobs in the last six months is just not good enough.

Mr McKenna concluded:

“The government must change course and either relax the rules around infection rates and lockdowns or come up with a scheme that offers businesses and their workforces the financial support they need.”