The Government was too slow to recognise the scale of the health crisis from coronavirus and we are already paying the economic price.
I am increasingly worried that the slow and muddled health response is now being followed by a slow and muddled response to saving jobs. The window is closing to protect existing jobs and encourage firms to invest in creating new ones.
There were 5,155 people in the Ipswich constituency claiming for Universal Credit and other benefits last month, a rise of 82% since the outbreak of coronavirus. Although this is an imperfect measure of unemployment, it hints at the scale of the looming jobs crisis in Ipswich.
Reports the government has pushed back its next full budget to the Autumn are worrying, as we are already lagging behind other countries like Germany, which announced a full economic package weeks ago.
We need an urgent package of economic measures with a clear focus: jobs, jobs, jobs.
Supporting this, we need a strategic withdrawal of support schemes tailored to the needs of specific sectors and areas.
The Job Retention Scheme is supporting 13,200 people of working age in Ipswich, whilst another 3,800 are using the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
Labour called for and welcomed these schemes, but we are concerned about their abrupt withdrawal which risks pushing millions of people into unemployment. The Chancellor plans to withdraw support for all sectors and areas of the economy at once, and has not linked his plan to other public health measures, such as easing social distancing guidelines where it is safe to do so.
This one-size-fits all approach won’t work for sectors like hospitality. Pubs, restaurants and cafes will be operating well below capacity when they eventually reopen and their fortunes are closely linked to the decisions that are taken on social distancing. It makes no sense to withdraw support for the 6,515 hospitality workers in Ipswich at the same time as sectors that are operating as normal and will need less support.
Similarly, firms relying on tourism face losing the majority of trade from the summer high season. Snatching away all support in October, just as the high season ends, could be ruinous for the tourism sector and the roughly 5,535 jobs it supports in Ipswich.
Bryony Rudkin, Chair Ipswich Labour Party