Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 25th November 2020

Since the first lockdown, Crawley has gained the reputation for being England’s ‘furlough capital’ due to 40% of working age residents either being forced onto furlough or claiming Self-Employment Income Support. This should come as no surprise, with Crawley’s economy the hardest hit in the country by government restrictions, the number of people necessary to keep the remaining businesses running over this period has been far lower.

However, all of this is changing…and not in a good way. With each passing month, we are seeing large numbers of Crawley residents made redundant. Wages are not the only cost employers face and the vast majority of Crawley’s businesses have not qualified for any financial support from the government so far, while working in some of the most vulnerable sectors. With so many businesses either going under or downsizing in preparation for a long road back to full operation, the reality is that these redundancies are not going to end any time soon.

Since last May, local leaders have been calling for targeted support for those communities which have been hardest hit by the government’s restrictions in order to save local jobs, but despite being the worst impacted community in the country the government has yet to provide any significant support.

If we cannot save those jobs and with residents facing unable to access new jobs–Crawley has seen the sharpest fall in new jobs being advertised in the country, the reality is many local families now face years stuck on Universal Credit.

Just under 13,000 local residents are already claiming Universal Credit. This was not a situation they chose and until things return to normal, they don’t have any alternative. So, why is the government in the midst of a crisis planning to cut Universal Credit by £1,000. For households already struggling to adapt to unemployment, this is a cruel blow, particularly when those earning up to £37,500 can continue to claim 80% of it from the government?

It’s wrong. Labour nationally and locally are calling on government to wake up to the financial crisis facing families this Christmas and cancel the cuts to Universal Credit .

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