The chief executive of private sector lobby group Downtown in Business Frank McKenna is calling for a joint delegation of Northern politicians and business leaders to demand an urgent meeting with government ministers to put a halt to what he describes as the imposition of a guaranteed economic catastrophe across the Northern Powerhouse. 

The business leader is warning that the latest lockdown measures being proposed by the government for Liverpool and other parts of the north will lead to a multitude of business closures and a tsunami of job losses – and predicted that even a more generous furlough scheme will not be enough to avoid economic devastation.

Mr McKenna was responding to the news that Liverpool would be placed in the highest tier of lockdown, resulting in the closure of pubs, restaurants, cafes and possibly leisure venues and hairdressers too.

He said:

“This is devastating news for Liverpool’s business community and the local economy. The hospitality sector underpins much of the economic activity across the city region. Not only are the venues themselves impacted, but the entire business ecosystem will be hit hard.

“Hospitality venues hire accountants, HR consultants, marketing agencies and digital companies. They have a huge supply chain to deliver F&B. Aside from the fact that many owners of smaller , independent venues will simply have the stuffing knocked out of them and see this as the final nail in their coffin, that entire business infrastructure will significantly shrink.

“On top of this, we have already got many companies, in the events, cultural and sporting sectors, hanging on by a thread. I cannot overstate the devastation that this will cause to Liverpool and other parts on northern England if these plans are adopted.”

Mr McKenna added:

“The anger and frustration from business is exacerbated by the fact that there is no evidence that local lockdowns are working – and seemingly there is no strategy beyond lockdown. So, what happens if the ‘R’ rate goes down in October. Do we have another grand re-opening of the hospitality venues in November, only to see infection rates creep up again, leading to a Christmas shutdown?

“The government are treating businesses with contempt. There has been no consultation, no forward planning and no consideration of the wider implications to the economy or indeed other health matters. Equally, they are dismissing the views of regional mayors and local government leaders. It is time for us to act like a powerhouse, and demand the government listen to the collective voices of political and business leaders from across the north.

McKenna concluded:

“We are all concerned about infection rates and Covid-19. But we must be alive to the wider implications of placing businesses and cities in aspic for a further period of time.”