A global leading response: just look beyond this country, and we see that this Government have delivered one of the most generous and comprehensive packages in the world, which is protecting jobs in Warrington South and around the UK with business grants, loans, rate relief, deferral of taxation, protecting people’s livelihoods and supporting businesses directly.
On Saturday, when I walked down London Road in Stockton Heath, businesses—large and small—came out to talk to me and, overwhelmingly, their response was positive. “Thank you, Chancellor,” is what they said. So how have the Government supported Warrington South? Let us start with Rishi’s dishes: 103,000 meals eaten in Warrington South, supporting pubs, cafés and restaurants—and, yes, I did enjoy it. There has been the furlough scheme supporting 15,400 incomes and the self-employed scheme supporting 3,200 homes, as well as the £126 million issued in CBILS and bounce back loans to businesses based in Warrington South. Having visited Warrington jobcentre last week, I want to pay a particular tribute to the team there who have made huge efforts to get universal credit out to those who need it quickly.
This Government’s support for business and employees is not ending, but it is important that we confront the realities of where we are today. We need to encourage employers to keep their employees on, so I fully support steps such as the job retention bonus scheme—a £1,000 bonus to every business for employees who were furloughed previously—and the kickstart scheme that kicks in to create job opportunities for young people. We need to get back to work and focus on providing new opportunities for people. Where jobs have gone, let us put all our efforts into helping those displaced get back into work. That is why I strongly support this Government’s plan for jobs. To those who argue for a sector-specific approach, I have one question: how exactly does that work—how far down the supply chain do we go?
Fortunately, the UK came into this crisis in an incredibly strong position. Warrington’s economy was one of the strongest in the north-west. Thanks to careful Conservative management of the economy over the last 10 years, we came into this crisis with public finances in a good position, which enables us to react strongly. But we should be clear that it is not sustainable to borrow at current levels in the long term. It is only right that, over the medium term, we get back to strong public finances.