BRIDGET PHILLIPSON: We don’t need any more slogans from ministers – we need a strategy

The North East is home to so many great businesses, big and small. I was grateful for the opportunity to visit several of these in my own constituency when restrictions eased over the summer.

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Sunday, 11th October 2020, 3:43 pm
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is going to make a historic mistake on furlough, says Bridget.

I heard first-hand about the challenges they’ve faced as they grapple with this pandemic, and their hopes and concerns for the future.

Whether it’s a sports centre, a brewery or a coach company, businesses and entire industries have faced huge challenges in adapting to the situation we’re in.

And although support like the furlough scheme has kept many people in work, there are big questions about what’s still to come.

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Even though we are far from through this pandemic, the furlough scheme is set to end next month.

In the North East alone, over 150,000 workers are still furloughed and working in businesses that haven’t been able to return to normal.

To pull away support prematurely will damage our economy in the long run, hitting small businesses and our world-leading industries alike.

It’s not just Labour calling for the government to change course. Calls for targeted support have come from businesses, unions, and even Tory backbenchers.

It’s not about continuing wage support in the same way indefinitely, but instead about making sure we support hard hit sectors central to our country’s future.

That’s what I’ve been calling for repeatedly in my role as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

People do not expect handouts, but they do expect fairness. They expect that in their hour of need the Government will not abandon them.

Yet the Chancellor has shown all summer that he is not prepared to engage with the concerns of businesses facing the toughest challenges.

Instead, he is stubbornly sticking to the course he decided on earlier this year, despite the mounting evidence that this will create a jobs crisis on a scale unseen for decades.

We simply can’t afford to lose good, viable firms, who will be so vital to rebuilding our economy in the years ahead.

Already we need to be thinking about how we create those new opportunities in communities that have already been held back by Tory neglect since 2010.

Sadly, we’ve heard precious little on job creation beyond the usual Tory soundbites.

We don’t need any more slogans from ministers – we need a strategy.

It should start with reversing the historic mistake that Chancellor is about to make on furlough, to avoid a jobs crisis that will derail the recovery we need to see.