Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:50 pm, 14th October 2020

I am very pleased and grateful that she has. She will then understand SAGE’s prediction that the infection is rising across the country, including in rural areas and coastal areas. Unless we take action and deal with that now, the problems that we are experiencing around business confidence, which are costing jobs and forcing businesses to the wall, will only continue. We need to give ourselves a fighting chance that we can approach Christmas, which is so important for businesses in this country, without the current rising levels of infection. I am concerned about the future of this economy, and I want a Government who have that long-sighted approach, rather than one who lurch from crisis to crisis.

We should have had a back-to-work Budget in July, but, instead, we got a summer statement, including a last-minute bonus scheme that will see £2.6 billion of public money handed over to firms that do not need it. In September, Labour set out three steps for a better, more secure economic future to recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild business. Instead, after we summoned him to the House, we got the Chancellor’s winter economy plan and a wage support scheme that does not meet the core test of incentivising employers to keep staff on part-time rather than let them go. Two weeks later, the Chancellor was back trying to fix problems with that scheme, as it became rapidly apparent that the health crisis was careering away from the Government and economic support was not keeping pace. Last Friday and this Monday, we had yet more announcements, which create as many questions as the answer.

I regret that these issues were not faced up to largely yesterday during the urgent question that I brought to the House, so I will try again. This time I can ask the Chancellor directly. Why have the Government adopted such an inconsistent approach to financial support for businesses in affected areas? Leicester, Oadby and Wigston had to wait a month to get the £7.30 per head in support that they were belatedly provided with. The initial funding for Liverpool City Region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough was, in contrast, £3.49 a head, but not for businesses; that was for covid-related action.

Last Friday, the Chancellor rebranded £100 million of funding for local councils as surge funding, with no details of how it would be allocated and the admission that £20 million had already been spent. On Monday, the Prime Minister spoke of more funding to local authorities, but again without details of how that money would be allocated—although apparently not to support local businesses. This situation is a mess. When local leaders are crying out for certainty, they need to know that if additional restrictions are coming, there is a clear and agreed formula for how much economic support they receive and how it will be deployed.