The Government’s slow and incoherent response to this pandemic and their muddled road map to get us out the other side could hit areas like ours hardest. The early failure to recognise the scale of this crisis means we are already paying the economic price.
The window is closing to protect people’s livelihoods and we need an urgent package of economic measures in response, with a clear focus on jobs, jobs, jobs.
There were 6,360 people in Dagenham and Rainham claiming for Universal Credit and other benefits last month, a rise of 136.4% since the outbreak of coronavirus. Although this is an imperfect measure of unemployment, it highlights that if we do not have a clear path for people to return to work our local economy could take a hit.
Reports the Government has pushed back its next full budget to the Autumn are worrying, as we’re already lagging behind other countries like Germany, which announced a full economic package weeks ago.
Supporting this, we need a strategic withdrawal of support schemes tailored to the needs of specific sectors and areas. It is sadly inevitable that there will be a number of job losses due to the coronavirus, but I will be working closely with local authorities and the voluntary sector to ensure my constituents can get back on their feet.
The Job Retention Scheme is currently supporting 13,000 of the working age population across Dagenham, Rainham, South Hornchurch and Elm Park, whilst 7,300 are using the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
I called for and welcomed these schemes, but now I am concerned about their abrupt withdrawal which risks pushing many 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 2,520 hospitality workers in Dagenham and Rainham alongside other sectors that are operating as normal, which need less support.
Similarly, firms relying on tourism face losing 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 2,285 jobs it supports in Dagenham and Rainham.
I am urging the Government to rethink their plans.