UnitedCity, an independent business group, was established with the aim of ensuring the safe reopening of Manchester’s economy.
As a business-led organisation, we want to work in partnership with civic leaders, health agencies and national Government to ensure that we can emerge from the current restrictions, re-establish the vibrancy of the city, and ensure that this lockdown was the last lockdown. The toll that near-continuous restrictions have taken on people’s lives and livelihoods, alongside the health impacts of COVID-19, have been huge. The uncertainty of stop-start lockdowns increases the damage and cannot continue.
The government will set out a roadmap on the 22 February illustrating how and when restrictions may be able to be lifted. For a city to successfully emerge from the pandemic, with its complex and interconnected communities and economy, it needs more than central Government plans. It needs a dynamic partnership between local business, local public and voluntary sector leaders and national government. We want to work with Government to bring that to life in Manchester.
Together, our strategy is to:
Contain: to ensure infections come down and remain consistently low so this is our last lockdown, fully making the most of the opportunity of the vaccination programme and protecting against new mutations
Create: working to rebuild our city eco-system, supporting businesses to trade, people into jobs, young people to access opportunities and everyone to enjoy the vibrancy of the city
Compensate: ensuring Government support for people and businesses that are not working, or are having to remain closed as part of the national COVID containment effort.
The specific measures in each of these strands will need to flex over the coming months and in light of the Government’s roadmap. However, to recover we need a toolkit of the following measures:
- Creative campaigns to encourage everyone to take up the offer of a vaccine to build on the success of the first phase of the vaccination programme. We need to be resourceful about engaging with younger people and those in communities where take-up is low
- Data that allows the quickest identification of COVID hotspots and new variants, with resources to support local tracing and surge testing (as demonstrated recently)
- Businesses to implement cheap, quick and effective workplace testing and tracing arrangements that complements national and local programmes
- Government support to work with tech providers to test a CovidPass that will bring together an individual’s vaccination and testing information. This will be designed to give people confidence to begin to go about more of their lives more normally, and help move more quickly to holding more large-scale events in the city
- Practical local support for implementation of COVID-secure measures in workplaces, leisure facilities and other venues with an appropriate local inspection regime which could include a kitemark
- A rapid ‘pavement licensing’ scheme that allows more businesses to trade outside and with additional funds to make improvements to the public realm matched by business
- Unlocking volunteer capacity to support the city’s recovery, particularly supporting young people whose education or job opportunities have been damaged
- An effective way of compensating people who have to self-isolate and lose income as a result
- An extension to the furlough scheme for sectors that cannot reopen and enhanced support for freelancers and the supply chain
- An extension to VAT deferrals and business rate holidays for impacted businesses
We want to work with the government and local partners in Manchester to implement these proposals so we can safely re-open the city and allow all our communities to flourish again.