Coronavirus latest: Students in England will be allowed home for Christmas

Andy Bounds in Huddersfield

The leaders of three of northern England’s biggest cities have called for the government to relax coronavirus restrictions it has imposed on them, which they say are wrecking the region’s economy.

The letter from Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester councils increases pressure on the government, whose own MPs are pressing for looser measures.

In a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock and business secretary Alok Sharma, the leaders and chief executives of the cities in northern England say that hotel occupancy is at around 30 per cent normal levels and footfall has dropped by more than two-thirds during local lockdown measures.

Because of higher coronavirus transmission rates, the three northern cities – which are major urban hubs in the government’s northern powerhouse plan – have to follow stricter coronavirus rules than in London.

They all, for example, have had bans on households mixing with each other in private homes or gardens. These rules were implemented by the central government in Westminster.

In Liverpool, one of the UK’s most deprived cities, the leisure and hospitality sector accounts for a fifth of the economy and provides half of the £270m in annual business rates, a property levy that funds essential services.

The letter says:

The new restrictions are threatening an economic impact on the hospitality sector which will be huge, disproportionate and not what we believe the government intended when designing the measures.

Each of our cities have a thriving hospitality sector populated by good, responsible businesses, generating thousands of jobs with many providing quality training, apprenticeships and career paths into the industry. They are a vital part of our economies going forward.

The stark reality is that these businesses are facing the prospect of a complete decimation in trade, not just in the short term but as we look ahead to the sector’s traditional lifeblood of the Christmas period and almost certainly continuing into spring/summer of next year which we know with certainty will result in mass market failure, huge levels of redundancies and depleted and boarded up high streets.

They want the government to either scrap advice that households should not mix in public places such as pubs, or make such mixing illegal and compensate businesses.

From Wednesday it will be illegal to do so in north-east England, including Newcastle, but no extra support has been offered to businesses.

The councils also want the 10pm closing time reviewed to help restaurants which want time to have two sittings an evening.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said:

We need to find a way to adjust the restrictions to ensure a balance in protecting public health and the need to protect businesses, many of which are teetering on the brink.

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