“The government needs to show compassion”: support the Tees Valley in today’s budget

Darlington town centre
Photo from creative commons

Urgent support is needed for the Tees Valley in today’s budget

Jessie Joe Jacobs is calling for a massive budget boost for the Tees Valley to help the area recover from the Covid-19 crisis. The Tees has been hit hard by the economic impact of a tough lockdown on top of ten years of Tory cuts. And the Labour party candidate in the looming Tees Valley mayoral election is calling for a clear framework for the future of the area.

“We need to back local business and local people,” she said. “We need the political courage to do the right thing.”   

Jacobs is clear about what she wants from today’s budget.

  • to extend the furlough scheme to ease businesses back and protect jobs
  • to extend the universal credit up lift so the hardest hit don’t face an economic aftershock
  • to announce dedicated funds to help revive high streets
  • to set out concrete plans to tackle unemployment 
  • to offer a boost for the area’s emerging green industries and jobs for the future  * to confirm treasury jobs for Darlington

On furlough

We understand now that Rishi Sunak plans to extend the furlough (job retention) scheme. This is a good move, although confirmation should have been announced much earlier as it has caused undue stress to many who are already struggling. Jacobs says:

“The Chancellor must extend the furlough scheme beyond the planned June cut-off. Many businesses have been devastated by a traumatic year and the people they employ remain in a very precarious place and have the anxiety of that date hanging over their heads.

“Many Tees firms, large and small, will suffer an economic long covid and they will need all the help they can to battle back. Key to that will be supporting the staff who have been furloughed while firms readjust and reopen.

“We can’t afford to risk the future of firms by pulling the rug from under their workers now.

“I would like to see something concrete for the excluded too, the millions of self employed who never qualified for furlough or government support.

On Universal Credit:

“The rise was small and temporary but it recognised that the poorest people and families in society needed extra help to get through the Covid-19 crisis.

“Their pressing financial need won’t vanish just because the Tory government sets a date to declare the crisis over. The government needs to show compassion.

“To tell people in dire need that a vital little extra will be taken away is cruel and unjustified. Their challenges haven’t gone away.”

On a high street recovery package:

“The high streets are the beating hearts of our communities and they must be helped to recover and flourish as part of a brighter future. 

“Our high streets have been allowed to wither with ten years of Tory austerity. We need to make places to be proud of again. We need vibrant town centres with a great mix of retail, leisure and hospitality. 

“That’s right at the heart of my vision to make the Tees a great place to live and work in. I’m backing local business and backing local people.   

“The Government must make available a billion pound recovery fund specifically to stem the decay and spark a revival of the high street. We need the political courage to do the right thing.”  

On tackling unemployment:

“After a decade of Tory austerity and cuts, the Tees was already among the worst areas in the country for unemployment but the Covid-19 crisis has really pushed that to crisis levels. So many firms closed down and laid off staff and others cut back to the bare minimum to get through lockdowns.

“During lockdown unemployment in Middlesbrough soared to 11.7%, the fifth highest in the country. In Redcar it was 8.0%. In Stockton North 8.4%. Stockton South 6.1%. In Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 6.8%. Hartlepool 9.2%. Darlington 7.6%… those shocking figures show how hard this has hit the area.

“And behind the statistics there are real people, struggling to survive in extraordinary times. We need a massive investment in job and opportunities now. We need real jobs, quality jobs, with high skills and high wages.”

On investment in young people:

“We especially need real jobs with a future for our young people. The Tees has historically had high levels of youth unemployment but the Covid crisis has really  exacerbated the situation. So many young people work in the hospitality sector, in pubs and restaurants, and those businesses were hit first and hit hardest. Our young people took the brunt of it

“We have to look forward to the future now too. We need an expansion of the Kick-Start scheme and more funding for apprentices to help young people into real jobs with a real future. We need to encourage start-up and small businesses and we need to invest in green jobs and tech.

On the Darlington bid for Treasury jobs:

“It is great news that Darlington is in on the shortlist for this. We really pushed for these jobs to one of our great town centre locations. That was essential.

“It would be a massive boost to the area, bringing high quality jobs, increasing footfall on the High Street and giving other businesses in the area a lift. We need these jobs here.” 

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