© Provided by The iThe group hopes to get people back to Machester city centre after lockdown is lifted (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville is teaming up with business leaders in Manchester to launch a campaign group that aims to get the city "back on its feet" during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
The group, known as UnitedCity, hopes to help get people back to Manchester city centre safely, and support industries including retail, leisure, culture and sports businesses after the national lockdown in England is lifted.
It said it aims to work with the local government to highlight the economic and health costs of coronavirus and seek ways to minimise them. © Provided by The iGary Neville has joined forces with business owners to launch UnitedCity (Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)
Former defender Neville, 45, told The Sunday Times: "Saving one life is more important than 1,000 people in a restaurant or 10,000 people in a football stadium.
"But if this thing is going to go on for a long period of time, there has to be that balance. We have to get people's lives moving again."
Roadmap for Manchester
The group of more than 100 businesses also aims to lobby the government when it comes to future lockdown restrictions for Greater Manchester, partly through independent research.
It said its research could be used to help create "a clear roadmap" to "navigate out of restrictions which hamper the region's economic recovery or further compromise the mental health of its residents."
It plans to commission privately-funded campaigns to give clear messaging and data around safety in the workplace, within hospitality venues and on transport, while raising funds through the private sector which will help support Greater Manchester's "most vulnerable citizens" in the pandemic.
UnitedCity says it has the backing of mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese.
'Let's get people going again'
Neville, who has also played football for England, said the group is looking for support from the business community.
"We are looking for business leaders to step up and lead the change to our working habits, to get our teams back into the office and back together again," he said.
The footballer turned property developer jointly owns the luxury Stock Exchange Hotel in Manchester city centre with former teammate Ryan Giggs and the pair have plans to build a 40-storey tower elsewhere in the city which will accommodate another luxury hotel, as well as apartments and offices. © Provided by The iUnitedCity hopes to lobby the government about future lockdowns and restrictions in Manchester.(Photo: Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Speaking of the UnitedCity launch, he told The Sunday Times: "There are a lot of people who are struggling because they have lost that ability to get up in the morning and do what most people in this country are programmed to do - go to school, go to work and get stuck into the day.
"We are a culture of people who want to get up and do things. We're not programmed to sit at home. That's where UnitedCity is going to be bold in its messaging of 'let's get people going again'."
'Nothing without its people'
Chris Oglesby, CEO of Manchester-based property developers Bruntwood, said: "We'll be looking to build a broad coalition with other business organisations and political leaders, with the long-term aim of ensuring Greater Manchester can recover in a way which is sustainable and healthy."
Will Lewis, of property consultants OBI, said: "The bigger businesses do have a responsibility. They've grown their businesses in the city, and they've been the last and the slowest to come back.
"They're going to have a shock at the city they come back to if they don't take responsibility to bring people back and using hotels, bars, restaurants, cinemas, galleries, music venues in a safe way."
Additional reporting by Press Association.