We remain in the thick of a pandemic, but our Chancellor is worryingly out of touch. Our country is faces unemployment on a scale not seen since the 1980s. We have already lost one million jobs since the start of the pandemic – and the figures ahead are bleak.

 

That’s why Rishi Sunak’s conference speech was an opportunity to deliver an important message to the hundreds of thousands in our country whose jobs are on the line because of the pandemic.

 

In the end, he spoke for just 10 minutes.

 

He didn’t announce anything new for the millions of self-employed, who now face the harshest of winters with reduced support.

 

Nor did he have anything to say to those who haven’t received any form of wage support since this crisis started.

 

And he has remained silent on the jobs cliff-edge we face when the furlough scheme winds up at the end of the month.

 

Over 11,000 people in Sunderland are still on furlough. It’s not clear that they’ll be able to go back to work when local restrictions are in place – that’s why we still need to see an economic package to protect businesses and jobs in communities like ours.

 

While local restrictions will be necessary to tackle this public health crisis, they should always come hand-in hand with economic support.

 

Of course, we cannot hope to get a grip on the virus until test, trace and isolate is up to scratch.

 

Yet this week almost 16,000 Covid-19 cases went unreported due to the Government’s shambolic handling of the system.

 

This serial incompetence is holding our country back, just as we face a difficult winter.

 

And rather than fighting for every job, the Chancellor is leaving people to sink or swim.

 

Labour have been clear that we need a plan to recover jobs, retrain workers, and rebuild businesses.

 

Thousands of people are already out of work, and millions more remain at risk of becoming unemployed.

 

The Government should have a strategy for retraining and supporting them back into new jobs – but what he has announced doesn’t rise to scale of challenge we are face.

 

Without action, our country risks the worst unemployment crisis in decades – and Rishi Sunak’s name will be all over it.

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