Manchester mayor Andy Burnham’s refusal to accept tier 3 restrictions has “highlighted the plight of the people” and emphasised the need for sufficient job support, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.

Speaking at the event, Alchemist CEO Simon Potts said that Burnham’s challenge to Number 10 goes far beyond a Manchester/Westminster or North/South divide, instead drawing attention to the national need for tier-appropriate funding.

“He’s done a good job of highlighting the plight of the people and that’s what things are about at the minute,” he said. “We know that the support scheme in its in its current form doesn’t work for the hospitality sector, certainly not for hourly paid workers, so any kind of enhancement of that is going to be important.”

And although the Manchester Mayor’s position hasn’t produced immediate fiscal results, Potts hopes that more recent developments could prompt a shift in the government’s approach.

“[Burnham] has really listened to the local voices in the city, and that’s become much more of a national issue,” he said. “And it’s helped, frankly, that London has been dragged into tier 2.

“It means the problem is a little bit closer to home for Westminster, and it can’t go on ignoring the challenge of it.”

For Potts, the key priority for the industry at present is in protecting jobs, and whilst he doesn’t want another lockdown scenario, it’s a reality he is willing to face providing a clear roadmap and degree of support is provided.

Having already accepted that profitability and growth is out of the question for the next few months, he argued that the least the government could offer is some certainty on ongoing support and eventual reopening.

“That will give us something to focus on as operators and we can credibly protect those jobs through the winter period in another round of hibernation,” he said. “If we can get this support piece nailed for the workers, and get our heads down, then it’s about building up for next year.”

“We need some certainty and we need a clear plan for the next two months,” he continued.

“The tiering is probably the most sensible way to go with it, but it has to be matched by proper support and proper funding at the right levels.

“People have to make the right decisions and they need to get on top of this quickly.”

Shedding some light on just how quickly, or slowly, the government is moving, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said the official line from ministers is that tier-based support “remains under active consideration.”

“We have been told that it’s under active review and active consideration,” she said. “But we have another week and a half before we have that cliff edge of the 1 November and so we’re pushing as hard as we possibly can.”

On the decision to increase London’s restriction level to tier 2 last week, Nicholls said the move was “quite surprising” given the comparatively low case numbers across the city, but explained its application is in almost direct opposition to the situation in Manchester.

“It’s a pre-emptive move, and at the direct request of the Mayor of London,” she said. “So, there is no question of it being imposed or introduced because the government felt it was something they needed to do straight away.

“I can only assume that it’s a pre-emptive strike to try and get in before cases rocket, but talking to a lot of government officials, I don’t think they realised quite how significant the change was from moving to tier 1 to tier 2.”