This summer, Labour called on the Chancellor to deliver a Back-to-Work Budget that addressed the unemployment crisis we face.
The North East has almost 15 jobseekers for each available job – the highest number in England. In Sunderland alone around 1 in 3 workers is furloughed, and no doubt anxious about the future as the scheme starts to unwind.
Labour have put forward solutions that would help the government tackle this jobs crisis. We called for targeted support for the sectors that are struggling. We need flexibility around furlough to support businesses that will face restrictions for months to come, like aviation and hospitality. Instead, the Chancellor risks undoing the positive impact this scheme has had by withdrawing it across the board.
Offering firms a £1,000 bonus for each furloughed worker they retain until January doesn’t address the challenge in vulnerable sectors, which will face real difficulties as long as social distancing measures continue.
Worse still, we risk giving public money to businesses that don’t need it. The Chancellor himself admitted that there will be ‘deadweight’ in the scheme.
Every penny counts right now. Money spent on firms that don’t need it is money not spent on supporting the jobs and livelihoods that desperately need help.
Something the Chancellor didn’t even mention in his statement was support for the childcare sector, which has been struggling during this crisis. Now the Prime Minister is putting working families in an impossible situation by urging a return to offices over summer – a choice between putting food on the table or caring for their children.
It’s simply irresponsible when there are far fewer childcare facilities or summer activity clubs available over the holidays this year.
Ultimately, we can only come through the other side of this crisis with public confidence in the government’s approach.
People need to know that it’s safe for them to go about their daily lives, whether returning to the office, going to the shops or travelling on public transport.
It’s not enough just to tell people to do this when we don’t even have an effective test, track and trace system up and running.
We all want to see society reopen and our economy to start growing again – but we can’t defeat this virus on a wing and a prayer.
We need confidence, and that is in the gift of the government – it’s about time that they provided this.
Bridget’s article was first published in the Sunderland Echo.