Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 11th November 2020

This is Living Wage Week, the annual awareness-raising event run by the Living Wage Foundation informing employers of the benefits of paying employees a ‘real’ Living Wage. Benefits there certainly are, with employers who’ve made the shift experiencing increased productivity and higher retention rates balancing out the cost of paying workers enough to live on.

It remains an important cause, but it also reflects the change in priorities we’re now facing. Crawley’s economy grew around a quarter from when I became Leader until the first lockdown, yet even before that growth we had one of biggest UK employment markets. Consequently, our priority on regaining council control wasn’t generating new employment, it was improving the quality of employment by focusing on attracting new sectors into Crawley, retraining opportunities, job support, and promoting the real Living Wage.

Yet, with Crawley’s economy the hardest hit in the country by the government’s coronavirus restrictions and their decision not to support the British aviation sector despite every other major competitor doing the same for their industries, we’re being forced into a position where the priority is attracting new jobs regardless of how poorly paid they might be.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If the government is determined to ignore the actions of every other competing economy in protecting major national industries, then at the very least we need to be building new industries to replace them. Without this economic growth, there will simply be no way for the country to ever pay off the debt the government is currently accruing.

This week Labour put forward a fully-costed plan for rapidly creating an extra 400,000 high-skill jobs–complete with retraining–to decarbonise our economy, making the UK a global leader in green growth, funded from the £100bn the government has already committed to spend over the next five years.

Crawley’s economy will recover, but if the government continues to refuse to support existing industries, it will take years to get the jobs back.  People can’t afford to live for years on Universal Credit, we need rapid action to ensure local families can make ends meet.

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