It cannot be understated how important today’s statement from the Chancellor is. The future of individuals, families and entire sectors both here in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields and across the country hangs in the balance.
Instead of a limited financial statement, we need a real Back to Work Budget – focused on preventing unemployment, supporting the unemployed and creating the jobs of the future.
I welcomed the package of support for the creative sector announced on Sunday, which was long overdue. However this bespoke sectoral support cannot just start and end with the creative sector .We have to take a sector by sector approach to our economic recovery – a point I made to the Chancellor in a letter to him in early April.
The Government’s persistent failure to do this throughout the crisis is completely nonsensical and out of step with the approaches taken by other major economies. For instance as early as April 8th, Europe’s culture ministers discussed support initiatives for the culture and creative sector. We have had to wait until July. As always with this Government, they are way behind the curve. Too much dither, too much delay.
Several other sectors that are disproportionately impacted by this crisis are crying out for support wondering when it will come. Freelancers – of which there are 13,000 in my constituency – are falling through every crack. An estimated 3 million self-employed tax payers have been excluded from Government support.
The Travel industry has been devastated by this crisis, with revised OECD estimates on the pointing to a 60% decline in international tourism in 2020. This could rise to 80% if recovery is delayed until December. I have had over 100 employees in the travel industry in this constituency write into me fearing for their futures – and with good reason. It is going to take months – if not years – for people to feel safe and confident enough to travel again.
And as we saw this week, the Higher Education sector is in huge trouble – the very sector we’re relying on to produce a vaccine and treatments. A report that warns that without Government intervention, an estimated 30,000 university jobs are at risk including at Roehampton University.
As the shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, has rightly underlined – our recovery in this crisis has to have a laser-like focus on jobs, jobs, jobs.
During the month of March, there were 395 new Universal Credit claimants in Wandsworth. In April, there were 2,077. This is but a thumbnail sketch of the devastation this crisis has wreaked on jobs and livelihoods across the country.
Being a stones-throw from Heathrow Airport, many residents of Putney, Roehampton and Southfields were among the 12,000 employees recently made redundant by British Airways. Unless the Government abandon its one-size-fits-all wind-down of the Job Protection and self-employed schemes, we will see more and more scandals like this.
Labour has set out four tests that the Chancellor must meet this afternoon. They are:
- Projects must involve local firms, upskill the local workforce and lead to material improvement in the quality and availability of local employment.
- The Chancellor must rebuild economic resilience right across the entire country – and protect those institutions, like local authorities, that can help deliver that resilience.
- Every single project must be consistent with the drive to net-zero – so we can build the green jobs of the future. I recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to make this recovery a green recovery. You can read my letter here
- Any benefits of investment now must not be cancelled out by poor decisions later. The Tories promised at the last election there would be no rises in income tax, National Insurance or VAT. We need the economy to bounce back from this crisis, so there’s money in the coffers to protect public finances.
For the sake of millions these tests must be met.
Lastly, the crisis facing social care which must be addressed as part of our recovery strategy.
The situation before the Covid-19 pandemic was already a system under severe strain. 5 million people aged 65 or over have an unmet care need, a number that has grown since 2016. By 2030, this could grow to 2.1 million if nothing is done. Despite this, there are more than 100,000 vacancies in the England care workforce.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) also estimates that providers may now face up to £6.6billion in extra costs due to the coronavirus crisis by the end of September.
We need a new system that must take its rightful place alongside the National Health Service as a core public service – to echo the Head of the NHS, Simon Stevens. This needs a comprehensive package of funding reform.
So in addition to the measures announced today, the Government must set out how it will support the care sector to recover from the effects of the pandemic, equip it to protect the health and wellbeing of older people in the long-term and establish a new and higher standard of care.
Rest assured, I will be following the Chancellor’s statement closely and assessing how it is going to impact our community here in Putney Roehampton and Southfields.