Update on COVID-19 Activity
Report of the Strategic Director (Growth and Development)
This report provides Committee Members with a further update summary of the current situation in the city in relation to COVID-19 and an update on the work progressing in Manchester in relation to areas within the remit of this Committee.
Further to Minute ESC/20/27 (Update on activity under COVID 19), the Committee considered a report of the Strategic Director (Growth and Development), which provided a further update of the current situation in the city in relation to COVID-19 and an update on the work progressing in Manchester in relation to areas within the remit of the Committee.
The main points and themes within the report included:-
· An economic overview at a national, regional and local level;
· A sectoral impact update, including the impact on footfall within the city, hospitality and visitor economies;
· Planned reopening dates within the cultural sector and the funding needed for Manchester’s Cultural recovery plan;
· The closure of Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport and the potential impact this would have on employment in the city;
· The steps needed to stimulate development & investor confidence in the city;
· Work being undertaken with TfGM to agree a broad overall transport plan to support the gradual opening up of the city with a focus on pedestrian movement and safe use of public transport;
· Work being undertaken around Skills, Labour Market and Business Support following on from the THINK report findings; and
· A progress update on the lobbying of government for additional funding.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-
· Concern was expressed with the reduction in residential property sales within the city centre might also be linked to cladding issues not just the impact of the COVID19 crisis;
· The increase in demand for turnover rent from hospitality businesses appeared to be a sensible response to the COVID19 crisis and was the Council engaging with landlords of businesses on this
· Concern was expressed on the dangers of monopolisation of hospitality and leisure businesses due to the impact of COVID19;
· How was the city centre likely to be impacted by the recently announced planning reforms;
· Had any progress been made with support for the city’s culture sector, including small venues and freelance performers;
· Where would the capacity come from to enable people to transfer their skills into other areas as the city’s economy recovered
· How was Kickstart positioned in the city and who would lead on this;
· Had there been any assessments on quality of life and wellbeing and environmental impact assessments in regards to the number of people now working from home;
The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration advised that city centre residential sales had been affected due to the issue of remedial works required to the cladding of a number of buildings. This was an ongoing issue and due to a lack of qualified inspectors, was resulting in the slow certification and sign off for many buildings. Discussions were taking place to see if any partnership arrangements could be put in place to speed up this process.
The Leader commented that there had been a surge in mental health issues in the city which could likely be attributed to the increase in home working and there would be a need for some form of “return to work” for businesses as soon as possible to prevent this increasing further. It was also acknowledged that there was an environmental impact of working from home, and it was commented that as autumn/winter approached, there would be an increase in employees home fuel costs. The larger concern was not whether people were working from home but whether people were working at all as the government furlough scheme came to an end. The Leader also commented that there was a need to address the element of confidence within the city amongst businesses and people.
The Head of Local Planning and Infrastructure/City Policy stated that clarification had been sought from MHCLG on the planning reforms’ impact on the ability to control the change of use of offices to residential accommodation. He advised that transition arrangements were being put in place which would mean that the Article 4 direction, previously agreed by the Council, which enabled the change of use of offices to residential accommodation to be controlled, would remain in place until the end of July 2021. A further announcement was expected from Government on any changes to the situation after that date.
The Chief Executive of Home Manchester advised that the Arts Council was managing the funds that government had made available to the country’s cultural sectors and a small amount had been made available and allocated for small music venues. A second wave of applications for additional funding that had also been made available had also been submitted, the outcomes of which would be known later in September. In terms of the freelance economy, a number of projects were ongoing to support employment within this area of the cultural sector. It was commented that the biggest challenge facing employment within the sector would be next financial year.
The Director of Inclusive Economy advised that the Government had very recently announced the details of the Kickstart Programme, which would provide paid employment for unemployed 18 to 24 year olds claiming Universal Credit, for a 6 month period. Employers would need to demonstrate that the Kickstart opportunities were new or additional and wouldn't displace an existing job. If the employer had 30 or more opportunities, they applied directly to the DWP and once they had carried out their checks, they would be filled by Job Centre Plus. Where employers had fewer than 30 opportunities, they would be encouraged to work through an intermediary, which could be a business, public body, training organisation or charity and once the intermediary had 30 vacancies they would apply to DWP and receive a small one-off admin fee. On top of the wages, employers would receive £1500 to provide equipment and support to the young person. Councils or Combined Authorities had not been involved in the design of the programme nor did they have a formal role in the delivery other than what opportunities might be provided directly by the City Council or by acting as an intermediary. In response to the question relating to funding and capacity to upskill and reconnect residents to employment opportunities, the Director of Inclusive Economy said that given the likely levels of unemployment, the system currently would lack capacity to respond in a timely way.
The Committee notes the update.
- COVID-19 update report, item 30. PDF 110 KB
- Appendix - Economy Recovery Workstream Situation Report, item 30. PDF 332 KB