Leading Labour councillors in West Sussex have joined with other council leaders, mayors, and councillors from across the UK in writing to Boris Johnson, urging him to rethink plans to scrap furlough outright and instead implement a targeted financial support scheme to prevent mass unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter outlines the signatories’ support for the Alliance for Full Employment -launched by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the North’s Metro Mayors, the Welsh First Minister, Mayor of Bristol and Mayor of Greater London, Sadiq Khan, – and the Daily Mirror’s ‘Keep Britain Working’ campaign.
The campaign—backed by the Labour Leaders on West Sussex County Council, Crawley Borough Council, Worthing Borough Council, and Chichester District Council—demands that the government sets up a financial support system that targets industries worst hit by the pandemic; supports any areas under local lockdown restrictions; and ensures incomes for people who are forced to self-isolate.
The government has said furlough will end in its entirety on October 31st, a decision that is being criticised as overly simplistic – detractors say it will hinder economic recovery, whilst also making it more difficult to contain the virus.
Gordon Brown said: “So many Labour leaders across the localities of Britain coming together to back our Alliance for Full Employment shows the extreme anxiety about mounting unemployment.
“Councillors know best what is happening in their local communities where too many people are worried sick about their livelihoods.
“Mass unemployment is not the inevitable economic outcome to the Covid pandemic. But it will be unless the Prime Minister makes the political decision to change course.
“Only by committing now to strategic use of furlough and full quarantine support for families forced into local lockdown can unemployment be kept low after October.
“Guaranteeing youth jobs, training or education now will protect the life chances of our young generation.
“And commitment to a Green Sea around all Britain’s coastal waters will provide the demand that will create the onshore jobs that will enable all our regions to thrive.”
Cllr Michael Jones, West Sussex County Council Labour Group Leader added:
“We have seen redundancies and joblessness in West Sussex surge following the furlough scheme winding down, particularly in the Gatwick Diamond area with the crisis the aviation industry is facing, but it is now spreading to other parts of the economy locally.
“The doubts over the future of a thousand jobs currently furloughed at Butlins, reported in the past few days, underlines the risks for towns like Bognor Regis and the surrounding area, where many people are reliant on their livelihoods to a significantly sized local employer. This cannot be ignored.
“Labour councillors in West Sussex know that timely but effective action in the way outlined by the Alliance for Full Employment is precisely what is needed to protect local jobs and particular industries while we get through this extremely difficult period brought on by Covid-19.”