The Government was too slow to recognise the scale of the health crisis from COVID-19 and we are already paying the economic price.
I am increasingly worried that the slow and muddled health response is now being followed by a slow and muddled response to saving jobs. The window is closing to protect existing jobs and encourage firms to invest in creating new ones.
There has been a worrying rise in people in East Hull claiming for Universal Credit and other benefits last month, a rise of over 70% since the outbreak of COVID-19. Although this is an imperfect measure of unemployment, it hints at the scale of the looming jobs crisis in East Hull.
Reports the government has pushed back its next full budget to the Autumn are worrying, as we’re already lagging behind other countries like Germany, which announced a full economic package weeks ago.
We need an urgent package of economic measures with a clear focus: jobs, jobs, jobs.
We need a strategic withdrawal of support schemes tailored to the needs of specific sectors and areas such as the caravan industry locally. It is vital that support is extended to those firms that have already missed much of their seasonal trade and now face an uncertain winter. A flexible, sector-focused approach to ending the furlough scheme, that allows manufacturers to respond to market conditions, would allow the industry to come through this crisis.
The Chancellor plans to withdraw support for all sectors and areas of the economy at once, and has not linked his plan to other public health measures, such as easing social distancing guidelines where it is safe to do so.
This one-size-fits all approach won’t work for sectors like hospitality. Pubs and restaurants will be operating well below capacity when they eventually reopen and their fortunes are closely linked to the decisions that are taken on social distancing. It makes no sense to withdraw support for many hospitality workers in East Hull at the same time as sectors that are operating as normal and will need less support.
The Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is supporting 23.5% of the working age population in East Hull. Labour called for and welcomed these schemes, but I am concerned about their abrupt withdrawal which risks pushing millions of people into unemployment across the country.