Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:20 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside 3:20 pm, 14th October 2020

Yesterday, I received the latest claimant figures for my constituency, and its rate of claimants has doubled since the pandemic began in March. The level of joblessness in my constituency is one in five, and this includes those, like many of the ExcludedUK members, who do not feature as they are unable to claim any support whatsoever. Now that Liverpool has been declared a tier 3 zone, our leisure facilities and gyms, and our hospitality sector, are being forced to close. Across Liverpool, approximately 30,000 people are employed in this sector and they all face at least four weeks without work. The job support scheme offers less support than comparable schemes in other countries; it will provide only 67% of earnings, and this will force many people into poverty. The point has been made this week by colleagues that bills, rent and food costs are not reducing by 67% to match that. The support for those who are self-employed and reliant on the hospitality and leisure industries for business reduces to just 10%.

I watched the interview with Natalie Haywood on ITV this week. She is the owner of Leaf and OH ME OH MY, two of our city’s leading hospitality independents, and it was heartbreaking to watch her despair at having fought hard to recover from the first lockdown and now being faced with losing the iconic businesses she has built up, and worse, possibly having to lay off her staff. She is far from alone. Another interview was with the owner of Lunya, a business that has paid more than £10 million in taxes in its 10-year history and employs dozens of local people. The business has been adapted to ensure its survival throughout this first lockdown, but he now risks losing his business and his home. Yellow Sub, one of the best-loved children’s indoor play areas, was one of the last businesses allowed to open. It missed the busy summer season and will now miss the half-term, with the business being put in jeopardy, jobs being axed and more people without work. Many of these businesses accessed the Government grants in the first lockdown and saved their businesses, and they reopened, even on a limited capacity basis, in September. This unforeseen enforced lockdown, without that support, has left them reeling and looking at the bleakest of futures.

Liverpool’s hospitality and leisure industries are critical to our economy. In one of the top five UK destinations, the sector contributes £5 billion to the Merseyside economy and sustains 50,000 jobs. Forcing this entire sector to close for an indefinite period, without the financial support that was available in the first lockdown, will decimate our city and our region.

I must thank our metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, and the six local authority leaders for pulling together a £40 million support scheme for the sector, without which we would undoubtedly be facing a domino effect of shutdowns in our city centre, but we need more. The local restrictions grant scheme will not provide enough to cover the overheads of most of our small independent businesses, the ones that make Liverpool so unique. I call on the Government to repay the city the unspent discretionary grant fund and allow us to invest in our economy. I am a very proud Scouser and I am privileged to represent such a resilient city, which always fights back to protect its people. But let us have a fair fight. Give us the money we need to protect jobs and livelihoods, and keep our economy going, and we will respond by supporting our businesses and workforces, and we will come back stronger.