Last week Labour set out a number of tests for the Chancellor’s statement.
First, it needed to have a laser focus on jobs, jobs, and jobs again.
We’re glad the Chancellor heeded our calls for a Future Jobs Fund style scheme for young workers, but it fails to meet the scope of the challenge.
Last week we saw 12,000 job losses announced in just two days.
In Feltham and Heston there are already 8005 people claiming out of work benefits, a rise of 130.7% since the crisis started.
There are also 23,500 furloughed workers in Feltham and Heston anxious about the future as the scheme starts to unwind in a few weeks.
They government promised them a new deal – but what they got was a meal deal.
Voucher schemes and cuts to VAT will help, but customers will only return to the high street when they are confident the virus is under control.
Yet the government still doesn’t have a functioning track and trace system, nor a clear system for local lockdowns.
The government is also risking the recovery by pressing on with the blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme, despite some sectors still operating with severe restrictions.
This means 6235 workers in Feltham and Heston’s hospitality sector – the pubs, restaurants and cafes we all love – will begin losing support in a matter of weeks, despite these businesses still operating well below capacity.
Second, we said it must learn the lessons of the last decade, as successive Conservative governments sapped the resilience of communities and households.
Astonishingly, average wages for workers in London are still £39.90 a week lower than they were in 2010, a decade of stagnation unprecedented in eight generations.
Meanwhile, investment into our communities has been slashed. Public investment has fallen by £210.40 per person in London since 2010, whilst investment in health and education has fallen by £16.90 per person and £35.90 per person respectively.
The Chancellor’s statement shows he’s not learnt from these mistakes. He’s not gone far or fast enough to protect the jobs in Feltham and Heston at risk over the summer and has pledged a paltry amount of investment that fails to undo years of cuts.
Third, it needed to accelerate the move to net-zero, as the Committee on Climate Change warned the UK is falling behind on its target.
Labour has consistently called for energy efficiency measures as part of any recovery plan, and we welcome the investment in upgrading buildings. However, we worry the UK is not matching the ambition of our international competitors, with Germany and France recently announcing €40 and €15 billion of green investment. The package also provides almost nothing for the 8.5 million in the private and social rented sectors.
Finally, we said that any progress must not be cancelled out by poor decisions later. The Tories promised at the last election there would be no rises in income tax, National Insurance or VAT. We need the economy to bounce back from this crisis, so there’s money in the coffers to protect public finances.