Manchester city centre has seen a 480 per cent increase in the number of people claiming universal credit in just five months, it has emerged.

A report that went before the council's economic scrutiny committee on Thursday paints a bleak picture of the impact of coronavirus restrictions on Manchester this year.

And, in particular, the wide range of concerns in the city centre from vanishing footfall to fears about trade in 2021.

In many ways, the data included in the report from the council's strategic director of growth and development Louise Wyman speak for themselves.

In April, the number of benefit claimants in the Piccadilly and Deansgate wards was 230, by September it was 1,334.

There has been 'a significant growth' in the number of Manchester residents claiming Universal Credit overall - up 151 per cent between April and September.

This affects every area in the city and all age ranges, the report says.

The number of universal credit claimants has increased dramatically in Manchester city centre

The area with the highest number of claimants is Harpurhey with 3,714, while young people have been especially hard hit with claimants increasing 136 per cent to 12,261 in September.

'Revenue losses of £13.5million'

Many areas of employment in Manchester are suffering, but nowhere is the impact of Covid lockdown felt more keenly than the hospitality sector.

The report says there are widespread concerns that a 'significant' number of hospitality businesses may not reopen, especially smaller and 'wet-led' venues that do not serve food.

CityCo, the Manchester city centre management company, carried out a survey on November 11 in the midst of the national lockdown.

They found 161 city centre food and drink businesses remained open to offer takeaway or delivery services or both.

However, a large chunk of those businesses, 58, were classed as off licences.

While 63 were restaurants and 25 takeaways, only seven cafés and seven pubs or bars were open.

Hospitality has been especially hard hit by lockdown restrictions

Most city centre hotels planned to remain open in November for essential workers, business travel and in some, allowing the booking of meeting rooms, the report said, while all businesses hoped that lockdown will only last until early December, and that 'there will still be time for some Christmas trade.'

CityCo's economic report from October highlighted just how tough trading conditions are for the night time economy.

"One local company with over eight venues in the city centre is at revenue losses of up to £13.5m due to losing six hours of trading daily within most of their venues," CityCo said.

"Another major operator with over 40 venues nationwide has only been able to open four of their venues.

"The Village venues have been struggling the most, on Canal Street several of the main venues must take over £27k per week to break even; but, since the curfew has been in place, each of these venues has taken only around £11k per week.

"Businesses across the board are reporting major deficits, with the average brought up slightly by the restaurants.

"Northern Quarter – average trading around 50% down year on year.

"Peter Street/Deansgate – average trading around 69% down year on year. Village – average trading around 74% down year on year."

CityCo says venues that have confirmed permanent or temporary closures include: Fac251, Gorilla, Deaf institute, Cruz101, Tapeo and Wine, FIFTH, Night People, Mcr Lounge, Sand Bar, Barca, Dough, Apotheca and Oscars bar.

The Village is struggling more than any other area of the city centre

Footfall down by 85 per cent

The retail sector is also under strain.

The council report says while non-essential retail was closed, just 34 essential businesses remained open in the BID shopping district (spanning Arndale, Exchange Square, King Street, St Ann’s Square, Market Street, Deansgate).

This was alongside 23 stores offering ‘Click and Collect’ and 29 food and beverage operators still open.

Cultural venues are also struggling with only around 25 per cent of usual visitor numbers, the report says.

The Museum of Science and Industry is getting only 1,000 visitors on a good day when normally it would expect 4,000.

Visitors are leaving 'very positive' feedback about the covid-secure setup but 'building confidence is key', the report says.

Even when businesses are able to open, the drop in footfall in Manchester city centre has been staggering.

For the week commencing 8 November there were 180,346 visitors, an 85 per cent reduction on the same period last year when there was more than 1.2million visitors.

Footfall in the city centre is down by 85 per cent

These figures also demonstrate the huge impact of national lockdown versus the tiering system in October.

Footfall for the week commencing November 1 was 46 per cent higher at 338,999 visitors.

The dramatic decrease in visitors is reflected in Manchester's use of public transport and the roads.

For the week commencing 9 November, bus passengers were down 49 per cent on pre covid levels, Metrolink by 77.2 per cent and cars using the highways by 28.4 per cent.

Rail passenger numbers are down 77.8 per cent on the same period last year and cycling 27.4 per cent.

As the M.E.N reported earlier this month, confidence in Manchester's property sector remains high overall, with billions of pounds committed to long-term projects.

But the council report says feedback from real estate is that current trading conditions are 'tough' and there is 'nervousness about what January and February will look like.'

The sector is keen for council leaders to developer a 'living with Covid strategy' for early 2021, the report says.

There are concerns about businesses moving to a 'hybrid way of working' and therefore needing less office space, as well as the potentional that 'banks will go after landlords who cannot service their debt'.

There has been 'massive' variation in rents collected, with retail and leisure hit hardest, while the sector also raised the possible impact on pension funds 'as these are often underpinned by property'.

'It is a mammoth task'

The council is proposing to respond to all these challenges as best it can.

A new service is being set up to help furloughed and newly unemployed people.

"A universal offer is being developed which residents can book directly onto alongside the support from Citizen's Advice Bureau, National Careers Service and Growth Company," the report says.

"This will be made live on the council web pages in the next week.

Council and businesses leaders are calling for more support from the government

"Work continues with partner agencies on building a central database of intelligence which will identify those sectors most at risk, skills gaps etc which and allow us to be more proactive with strategies for support."

To help businesses affected by coronavirus restrictions, leaders across Greater Manchester have agreed 'a common set of principles and priorities for applying for the additional discretionary grant' to improve consistency and ease of access.

Although Manchester's Christmas Markets have been cancelled, a 'December/Winter Gardens' food and drunk venue with illuminations, covered seating, and and 'bandstand' for a rota of musicians is planned for two weekends this month.

But Cllr Marcus Johns, who sits on the economic scrutiny committee and represents the Deansgate ward, said the report is worrying and called for the government to give the council more backing.

"Surgin unemployment in the city centre is a huge anxiety," he said.

"It's one that's playing out across the city and the country too.

"As councillors, we are all focusing on protecting and creating jobs as part of our economic recovery plan for the city.

"It is a mammoth task.

"For the sake of all our futures, we have to get this right.

"It's time for the Chancellor to get real.

"The Council has a plan that will work and we need the financial support to deliver it.

"After ten years of cuts and a global pandemic, the government has to put its hand in its pockets and help us and every other council to recover."