Spinningfields Quiet
Footfall in Spinningfields was higher than pre-Covid levels last month but is now under threat

IN FOCUS | Industry laments Manchester’s tier 3 blow

Sarah Townsend and Neil Tague

Property and hospitality businesses in the city-region expressed a mix of anger, frustration, fear and dismay after mayor Andy Burnham’s attempts to secure more funding to accompany tougher Covid-19 restrictions crumbled on Tuesday.

Talks between Whitehall and the Greater Manchester mayor broke down last night, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson refusing to stump up the £65m Burnham had requested to support businesses during a ‘tier 3’ lockdown starting on Friday.

Greater Manchester has been subject to tier 2 restrictions since 13 October (and similar rules for more than a month prior to that), including a ban on mixing with other households indoors and a 10pm pub and restaurant curfew.

Under the heightened restrictions – which are already in place in Liverpool, Merseyside and parts of Lancashire – non-essential travel in and out of the city-region will be discouraged and pubs and bars must close unless they serve “substantial meals”.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth, especially as restaurants and bars would have planned their operations – ordered stock, staff rotas and budgets – based on the tier 2 restrictions imposed on Greater Manchester a week ago,” Jake Ogden, co-founder of the Manchester Hospitality Network, told Place North West.

“I don’t think you’ll find anyone in the sector who wasn’t fully behind Burnham as he persevered with the Government on a funding package, because [support equating to] two-thirds of a barman’s salary just won’t cut it.”

William Lees-Jones, managing director of brewer and pub operator JW Lees, said: “I’m 100% behind what Burnham is saying. At the outset of the crisis, he wanted to close hospitality, but we’ve since invested and worked hard to make pubs safe.

“We’re the only part of the retail sector properly doing track-and-trace, but the data is not being used [to sufficient effect].”

Lees-Jones warned of increasing ill-will towards the Government among Greater Manchester hospitality businesses. “I’m reminded of when Ken Livingstone was mayor of London and Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, and the prospect of civil disobedience around this worries me greatly,” he said.

“It seems so unnecessary: the parties are so close on the numbers and we really can’t afford brinkmanship when it looks to be a straightforward process to resolve the impasse. After all, it was George Osborne who insisted that Greater Manchester had a mayor and that powers were devolved.

“You can’t say you want that, and add that additional layer of power, and then say you don’t like it when [the mayor] digs his heels in. All the work that’s gone into the Northern Powerhouse now looks as though it might have been a waste of time.”

Thom Hetherington, chief executive of hospitality events business Holden Media, added: “There is huge sectoral support for both Burnham and Sir Richard Leese [leader of Manchester City Council], as well as the other MPs and political leaders around Greater Manchester who stood up to be counted.

“Operators genuinely believe that local leaders are fighting their corner, and that trust and belief is a potent thing. They support the fight.

“Of course, there are many different types of hospitality businesses, each affected differently, and conflicting opinions within the sector about the best way forward in this crisis.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Burnham pressed Whitehall for more funding to support businesses

Peter Kinsella, co-founder of Spanish restaurant Lunya, which closed its Manchester outlet during the first Covid lockdown but has two Liverpool outlets operating, said he remained “optimistic that we will survive”, but that the tier 3 restrictions in Merseyside make that ever less likely and the same threat faces businesses in Greater Manchester.

“For businesses that rely on footfall, for example, people spontaneously going for a drink and then maybe ordering food later on, it may not be worth staying open with all the overhead costs and the reduced footfall in the city centre,” he said.

“In Liverpool, police are going around actively checking that people have ordered food with their drink, and we’re not clearing people’s plates after they’ve finished eating so that we can show ‘evidence’ that they ate and drank – and none of that makes for a great experience.”

That said, Liverpool is directing its funding package from Whitehall at the hospitality sector by way of grants, which could make things easier, Kinsella added. His business is seeing a dramatic uplift in revenues from its online and deli offerings – which, “while it doesn’t replace lost revenues, is a brilliant injection of extra cash”, he said.

Hospitality firms have the support of the wider property industry, too. Will Lewis, co-founder of property agency OBI, said: “Across Greater Manchester, people have invested heavily in making bars, restaurants and workplaces Covid-safe – these are places that are safer than home environments, and easier to monitor, so introducing harsher measures seems to fly in the face of that investment.

“Not everybody has a home environment that supports their mental and physical wellbeing, and we fear that’s being forgotten.”

Mike Ingall, chairman and chief executive of developer Allied London, whose Spinningfields district in Manchester city centre is home to numerous hospitality businesses, told Place North West: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but looking back, this was inevitable.

“We should have been much more carefully managed coming out of lockdown in June and July, but instead people were handed a tenner to encourage them to go out and eat.

“I am not criticising any decision makers, as this virus has a mind of its own, but I am saying that had more stringent controls been in place, I think we would be in a very, very good place right now.

“We are paying a huge price [for our initial unchecked freedoms] and it’s very frustrating.”

Evening footfall rates in Spinningfields were higher in August and September than they were pre-Covid, he added, and turnover from the district in the same months was also up on the previous year.

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What are Andy Burnham and his friends trying to achieve? To change UK policy on dealing with Corona virus, and because we cant have the pubs suffer, we’ll just let it keep spreading, or to get better deal. Whichever, the results so far have been a disaster for Manchester. He seems inspired by the spirit of Derek Hatton, and we all know what happened to Liverpool in the 1980s. Has he got some larger political game going on? He and Manchester are going to have to deal with the present Government for another 4 years. This last week is going to be very costly. Is this the week Manchester’s unstoppable progress came to a halt ?

By Anon

@Anon, To be fair, much of what has happened in Manchester during the last decade has had little to do with central government…if we left the development of Manchester to them, the place would have been a dust bowl years ago.

By Manc Man

Manchester wants a united front only when it suits them

By MmcDrama Queen

Nice to see Burnham playing party politics with peoples lives.

By Suman

I agree with Anon wholeheartedly. Burnham had his eye on Labour leadership, he clearly thinks he is PM material and wants to make the current government’s job even harder than it is already. 40% of the cases are in the North. That isn’t Whitehall’s fault. Boris can’t be seen to favour a particular area. It’s just madness. Strangely, Burnham is branded a hero in Manchester.

By Cheshire boy

How dare people say he is playing party politics. Clearly from people that have no idea of the levels of hardship currently going on in our city. All from people on comfortable wages with a roof over their head; yet no doubt the first to come on the comments section and complain about homelessness and anti social behaviour. Andy was trying to get people, the poorest in our society and on the lowest wages, a better settlement. That’s his job. How we can afford 80% of people’s wages back in April when it was London that over run with COVID, but not now it’s the north, is scandalous. You have to ask yourself what kind of society and country do we want to be. We’re saving some lives at the expense of others.

And anything good that’s every happened to Manchester has been despite the Tories, not because of.

By MB

How do you expect people to live on 2/3 minimum wage when bills are remaining at 100%? Which bill should you prioritise most? Maybe not go shopping for food as you can get it from a food bank, so there’s some saving there.

The northern leaders are right to highlight this issue and fight for improving conditions. To people who think they shouldn’t, it is literally their job to do this. They have a mandate to look to the interests of the people in their constituencies.

By Sim

All Burnham is doing, quite rightly, is challenging the diktats that emanate from central government, seemingly issued without regard for the acknowledged experts on dealing with the crisis which are local government public health teams.

So this has got NOTHING to do with party politics or Labour vs Tory, but rather local versus central. Central government of whatever colour has attempted to run the country like it were a colony, micromanaging and interfering in local affairs from an office in Westminster and to disastrous effect. No other developed country is as centralised as we are so it’s high time we had a strong voice standing up for local government, for local expertise and for the interests of local communities affected by the dead hand of central government. Burnham speaks for all towns and cities really and he speaks well. More power to him.

By Westminster watch

I agree with MB.

If you don’t think Manchester or any other northern city deserves more money in order to help the local economy survive, then you are clearly out of touch. Also it’s refreshing to see a leader with a pair of balls, can you say that for any other leaders? I can’t think of one.

By Anonymous

I think this rift between GM and the Tories will take generations to heal. If I were the MP for Leigh or Heywood and Middleton I would enjoy my short lived London jolly.

By Elephant

Burnham has been the only one to truly stand up to these charlatans. About time someone challenged the ongoing pantomime down there instead of constantly rolling over and allowing those with the least in society suffer the most.

By WarringtonGreg

Andy Burnham was 100% right to try and get the best deal for the residents and businesses of Greater Manchester my concern is the vindictiveness of the tory Government who will now look to punish the area by withholding funding.

By Monty

Excellent Post MB. People on this comments section are unlikely to experience the hardship Burnham is trying to ease, despite redundancies in the industry. Anyone complaining about Burnham trying to secure some money for the least well off should try living off 67% of their wage and donate 33% of their wage to a well-deserving charity.

By Anon2

Knowing when you’ve got a good deal is where Andy Burnham has failed. He has gambled with our safety in doing so and when the NW has the highest death rate in the UK he’ll still point the finger at Westminster. At no point did he ask the people of Manchester to work together to reduce the number of cases to avoid going into Tier 3 altogether, which leads you to think he is losing sight of the main issue here – ensuring our key services are not overrun with cases which will have huge long term economic costs.

By QuestioningWhy

The concern isnt that Burnham tried to get a better deal, its that all his jumping up and down failed and was probably counterproductive. Politics is the art of the possible. Dont pick fights you will lose. or did he have another aim. I agree with Elephant, this rift will not heal quickly. What happened to all the Remain Ministers. Manchester has been the poster boy of the Northern powerhouse, a place where things get done, not a member of the awkward squad

By Anon

Some embarrassing comments here from people who clearly lead lives that will not be inconvenienced by any current hardship

By Disgruntled Goat

#our city centres have peaked, especially Manchester

By Dan

Couldn’t agree more with Disgruntled Goat – first few comments on this article only reinforce the stereotypical views that people have about the property industry and who can blame them!

By SEB

Attacks on Andy Burnham are all coming from Ignorant and prejudiced Tories with plenty of money who have never done a real days work in their lives and have private health, went to private schools and live in prosperous areas. with others of their persuasion.

By Lion

I was in full support of Andy Burnham…it’s interesting that as I’m sat here writing this the chancellor has just announced additional support for areas now in tier 2 of COVID restrictions. Now call me cynical but GM was under tier 2 restrictions for weeks with no additional help over the default given. As soon as it’s announced that London is to move to tier 2 additional support is announced….I rest my case.

By Manc man

The government thinks it’s acceptable for people to live on £5.80/hour. I admire Andy Burnham for what he did.

LL

By Liver lad

for Mr Burnham this was / is more about his future bigger ambitions in national politics…..wasn’t that good as an MP, as Health Secretary or a Labour leadership contender…he thinks this will be his second coming

By anonymous

I stand with Andy. it is nice to know someone is sticking up for us.

By Anonymous

Why do we need Andy Burnham? Just another layer of politics where none needed and an additional charge on the Council Tax demand.
The city council and the private sector have been doing perfectly well over the last 30 years.

By ChesneyT

What is the point of making a great fuss and then proving that you cant deliver. If you want stay in opposition for another 10 years that is the way to go. Perhaps Andy is happier complaining than actually getting results. The government used to work with Manchester because they knew problems would be solved, the direct opposite of what has just happened

By Anonymous

Personally closing the pubs isn’t going to make much difference
as people are going into pubs and restaurants that serve food and working around the rules and sitting drinking for hours after.

By Anon

By imposing restrictions on Greater Manchester for so long and without any timescales or targets for reducing them, I suspect that they are not being entirely adhered to. Particularly people mixing in houses. The worry about taking away the ability for people to meet their friends and family the under heaters and canopies of (the relatively controlled environments of) pub beer gardens, is that more people may now be tempted to meet in their own homes instead. It’s not July, very few people are going to arrange to meet in socially distanced groups of 6 or less and sit in the park in the rain.

By Anonymous

Sloppy reporting tbh…….. Messrs Burnham, Leese and Lord started negotiations requesting £80 million but this figure was aggressively forced down by Government “negotiators”. Tier 3 restrictions temporarily closes Pubs and Bars and anybody visiting Manchester City centre (and the area of Manchester’s CBD which falls under Salford City Council) quickly realise that Pubs, Bars, Clubs and Hotels disproportionately dominate Manchester’s economy like no other city in the UK, so this latest “support” package should have been based on this reality rather than simply calculating the financial support based on the different populations of these Metropolitan conurbations. For example, Manchester City Centre has roughly the same number of Hotels and rooms as Birmingham, which has double our population, around 1.2 million. I also think that the Government and the scientific advisors are being a bit “economical with the truth” regarding the R rate in Greater London, which is roughly 25% bigger than the Greater Manc area but has over THREE TIMES the population. It just doesn’t add up. My own opinion is that the Government wouldn’t dare put Greater. London on Tier 3 lock-down for fear of possible riots and demonstrations ON THEIR DOORSTEP and the political backlash from roughly 10 million people in this conurbation, by far the UK’s most populated area. Finally, a big shout-out for Andy Burnham and Sasha Lord, who have been outstanding fighting the corner for Gr. Manchester’s residents and businesses during this Pandemic. We are fortunate to have such talented individuals representing our interests.

By Bilderburg Attendee

This is BoJO playing politics; its a National lockdown…but by stelth. He cant come out and do it, otherwise the right wing tories will go ape. So its Liverpool, Lancashire, Manchester, Sheffield, Warrington,…then Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham and then Brum. Not from Liverpool or Manchester, but I think their mayors are doing the best they can……………..LETS BUILD A WALL!!!

By Anonymous

@Bilderburg Attendee; unfortunately you missed the arguement. All tier 3 areas get more or less the same, pro-rata. Manchester went for £80M but got £60M, which is in line with the other areas. I accept that its too little for all of the areas, but if Manchester got more, then why shouldnt Blackpool or Liverpool, on the same basis. The problem is the cash is aimed either at posters, business support, or testing………..none of which is going to lower case numbers. You HAVE to lock people up/down to do that……sadly. If people had followed the rules, none of us would be tier 3. The science shows where the second wave started.

By SalfordAnnie