As the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West, employment has been high on the agenda for me from the outset. For decades, Wolverhampton has been above the national average on unemployment. Economic opportunity for our great city was really championed when the Prime Minister said that he was going to level up the country, and areas like St Peter’s, Graiseley and the rest of Wolverhampton were given hope. Then covid hit and the world as we knew it changed. In dark times, I was able to see a city come together in unity, regardless of party, beliefs or views, and do what was right for the city. Businesses were repurposed or adjusted to serve the community, from the amazing Jim Gough’s of Tettenhall to Grill-It in Newbridge. Key workers went over and above in a time of crisis.
As lockdown was eased, I was able to get out and see these businesses face to face to see what they were doing. Simply put, it was hard for them. Footfall is down and the future of business looks more challenging than ever before. The market traders of Wolverhampton trade on with steely determination in a difficult climate. There are businesses such as EcoWulf in Chapel Ash, which was set up one year ago and had to deal with covid in its first year but trades on with a great product. Malik Butchers of Whitmore Reans has used this time to repurpose its business to provide some truly amazing halal street food.
Without a doubt, business in Wolverhampton will be concerned about paying the bills and keeping their employees in jobs, but what has made a difference in this unprecedented time is the support the Government have provided. From the job retention scheme to business grants, it has all made a huge difference to people. I have heard this from so many; it has been well received. It has been a lifeline that has saved many jobs and businesses throughout our great city. However, it does have to end.
It is never good to see someone lose a job or a business go under. This I know from experience having gone through it: the sadness you feel when you make people redundant; the numbness you feel when you tell your family you cannot put food on the table. Nobody wants this. But we have to look forward. We must make sure that we provide the best circumstances to safely get the economy moving forward and create sustainable public finances. We need to empower businesses to give them the opportunities to fulfil the visions that they have. We must move forward in supporting them as we are through the kickstart scheme and other great opportunities. We have to support businesses moving forward, but we cannot keep the furlough scheme going forever and a day.