Sheffield MP Louise Haigh warns job losses are 'tip of iceberg' unless Tories act

A Sheffield MP has warned that a spike in unemployment will be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ unless the Government acts to protect jobs.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 9:00 am

Heeley Labour MP Louise Haigh was responding to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which show that UK job losses rose at a record rate in the three months to August.

The unemployment rate increased to 4.5% up from 4.1% in July with redundancies up by a record 114,000.

ONS figures for September show that the number of Jobcentre claimants in Sheffield has more than doubled since the pandemic began.

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Heeley MP Louise Haigh has issued a warning over rising job losses as the pandemic hits the economy

As of September 10, 23,350 people in Sheffield were out of work and claiming work-related benefits. On March 12, just before lockdown began, the figure stood at 11,865.

Across the UK, the number of claimants has also more than doubled since March, increasing from 1,275,575 to 2,709,210. In South Yorkshire, the figure rose from 31,045 to 58,895.

Younger people have been especially badly hit, with the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds now at 13.4%

The Government has introduced a new furlough scheme in an attempt to mitigate the economic effects of the new three-tier system of localised restrictions

This will pay two-thirds of workers’ wages in firms ordered to close their doors. However, it will do nothing to help businesses that remain open but are forced to reduce capacity. It also fails to incentivise businesses to bring back more workers part time, rather than bring some back full time and let other go, said the MP.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, revealed that the Government is planning for around four million unemployed.

Louise Haigh said: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are completely out of touch when it comes to the looming jobs crisis.

“Every redundancy is a tragedy but the job losses we’ve seen so far will be the tip of the iceberg unless the Government puts in place a proper Job Recovery Scheme that actually incentivises employers to keep more staff on.

“Rishi Sunak says that he is not prepared to support unviable businesses, but many businesses are only unviable because they’re still not legally allowed to operate normally. In these circumstances, the Government does need to step in to ensure that businesses survive, jobs are saved and we avoid mass unemployment.

“We’re still feeling the consequences of the last time we had mass unemployment here in South Yorkshire in the 1980s. We must not see a return to those dark days.”

Employment Minister Mims Davies said: “We know the virus has impacted our jobs market in recent months and that’s why our £30 billion Plan for Jobs will continue to help protect, support and create jobs.

“We’re supporting people into work, doubling the number of our Work Coaches across Jobcentres and helping those made jobless by the pandemic through our newly launched Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS).

“From next month young people across the country will be starting roles on the £2 billion Kickstart scheme helping them get crucial experience and build vital skills.”

A HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We’ve put in place a comprehensive plan to protect, support and create jobs in every region and nation of the UK, with more than £200bn of support since March.

“And our Winter Economy Plan will ensure this continues in the difficult weeks and months to come – providing a toolkit of support for all situations.

“Our expanded Job Support Scheme will protect jobs in businesses that are open or closed, we’ve increased grants for firms required to close and are providing additional funding for local authorities and devolved administrations.

"This is alongside existing support measures including extended VAT cuts, businesses rates holidays and our extended loan schemes.”

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