Labour is the party of work and business. We understand that businesses create the jobs and drive the growth that will help build Britain’s recovery.
It’s these high-skilled, well-paid jobs that we need so badly in the North East, which has been let down by over a decade of neglect and broken promises under the Tories.
While businesses are central to our economic recovery, we know that the pandemic has had a devastating impact for many of them.
The government should be doing all it can to get as many as possible through this crisis.
Yet once again, Rishi Sunak is jeopardising their futures by putting off key decisions until next month’s Budget.
Throughout this crisis the Chancellor has repeatedly acted at the last minute, creating uncertainty for businesses, and costing jobs.
Take the furlough scheme. Millions across the country are still on furlough, but this is set to expire at the end of April. Across Sunderland, almost 14, 450 jobs are at risk.
The Chancellor must provide clarity. Right now his silence is causing real worry for local businesses. I know from speaking with them how worried they are about getting through the next few months.
He should nip this uncertainty in the bud before businesses decide to shut shop, and immediately back Labour’s call for a ‘smart’ extension to the furlough scheme.
This isn’t simply about extending furlough. Labour have called on the Government to improve it, with new training to help furloughed workers improve their skills and tough conditions on employers to stop abuse.
We cannot risk a month of dither and delay until the Budget.
This inaction threatens local jobs and our economic recovery – just as the Covid vaccine offers light at the end of the tunnel.
Across Sunderland there has been a swift and efficient vaccine rollout, thanks in no small part to the incredible efforts of NHS staff and volunteers.
I was lucky enough to see this first-hand on a recent visit to the vaccine centre in Houghton, one of six across Sunderland.
The vaccine gives us hope of a way out of this crisis. The promise that before long, we can spend time with friends and loved ones once again.
But until it is rolled out, it’s up to the government to match the dedication shown by our community to getting through this crisis. It’s why they must act now to secure, recover and create jobs.
This article was originally published in the Sunderland Echo. You can read it here