Throughout this pandemic, I have heard from too many families and too many businesses who are facing real hardship and are worried about what the future holds. Many haven’t even been able to access support since the start of this crisis.

Let’s not forget that when Covid-19 hit, the irresponsible decisions taken by the Conservatives over the last decade had left many UK households with nothing to fall back on.

This pandemic has only made matters worse, and many are being pushed to the brink this winter. It’s vital the Government gives workers and businesses certainty and confidence about how it will support them through the challenges ahead.

Yet in a few months time we’ll face a number of cliff-edges as the Government winds down its economic support schemes. In March applications will close for government-backed loan schemes, then in April the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit will be cut, along with the furlough scheme and an end to the ban on repossessions.

But we have heard nothing from the Chancellor as to what will happen next.

We all recognise that Covid 19 would have been a challenge for any government, but that doesn’t explain why our country has had the worst recession of any major economy and the worst death toll of any country in Europe. With every week that goes by, the damage grows deeper and deeper.

Whilst the rollout of the vaccine gives us light at the end of the tunnel, we still cannot predict how long restrictions will need to be in place. And loosening restrictions early is not the answer: doing this too quickly puts lives at risk.

That is why Labour is calling on the Government to keep the Universal Credit uplift in place and fix the holes in the UK’s safety net, and to use some of the £2 billion handed back to government by supermarkets in business rates relief to help hard-hit businesses and people who have been excluded from support altogether.

And that’s why I urged the Chancellor to fix the gaps in the income support schemes for both the employed and self-employed, as many businesses and workers continue to fall through the cracks. Years of hard work are slipping through their fingers.

The Chancellor’s chaotic, last-minute approach to this crisis is not what people deserve. This pandemic has wrecked people’s livelihoods, crippled their incomes, and taken away loved ones.

The Government aren’t getting ahead of the economic crisis we are facing and they desperately need to.

People are crying out for the security. They want a good job, a reliable wage, a roof over their head and the confidence that comes with those things. Not a life built on waiting for scraps of support from the Chancellor.

It’s why we need a Labour Government that makes responsible choices to secure our economy, protect the NHS, and rebuild Britain. So that it’s the best country to grow up in, and the best to grow old in.

This article was first published in the Sunderland Echo

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