Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column: 'Plan for jobs' will boost town's recovery

Coronavirus has never just been a health crisis but an economic one too.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:30 pm
Antony Higginbotham

It has required all of Government to work at speed to address the impact the virus is having – from freeing up NHS capacity and scaling up testing capacity, to opening travel corridors and moving education online.

In responding to that economic crisis, the Government has been following a three-phase plan.

Stage one was announced in March and focused on shielding the economy from the worst impact, just as we shielded the most vulnerable from the health impact.

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People were placed on the Government funded furlough scheme to keep them employed; businesses were given grants to help them tide themselves over; and loans were guaranteed to keep credit flowing.

On Wednesday the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the second phase in our response to the coronavirus pandemic with a huge £30 billion Plan for Jobs – a programme of much needed support for both workers and businesses that will help many in Burnley and Padiham as we start the process of recovery.

Over recent weeks I have been lobbying Ministers at every opportunity to move at speed in order to protect jobs. Because whilst the Job Retention Scheme has been a lifeline for thousands, keeping people in jobs even whilst not working, it is a temporary measure.

And if we are to have a viable future for our local industries, we need people back at work. This Plan for Jobs delivers on that – giving businesses £1,000 for every furloughed worker they bring back and keep in work.

For many of our local employers, large and small, this will represent a significant cash boost, allowing them to invest in new equipment that will secure those jobs they bring back in the long-term and giving a springboard for expansion.

It is a sad reality that in many economic downturns the people who pay the highest price are those who are just about to enter the workplace, with youth unemployment after the 2008 financial crisis hitting record highs.

With a world class college in the centre of our town and an expanding university campus, we must not allow that to happen.

That’s why I am proud to see a new Kickstarter Scheme introduced, funding the direct creation of high-quality jobs for 18 - 24-year-olds who are at the highest risk of unemployment.

This will sit alongside a guaranteed foundation of support through an expanded Youth Offer delivered through the Department for Work and Pensions, providing a range of targeted support to help young people find lasting work.

And we also had to find a way to help our hospitality and leisure sector get back on its feet.

Last weekend I went out and about amongst the businesses that have just started to re-open, from the town centre restaurants and cafes to pubs and bars. And whilst the atmosphere was optimistic it’s clear that times are tough, and it will be a while before things are back to normal.

That’s why we have reduced VAT for all hospitality and leisure venues from the normal rate of 20% to just 5%. Using the tax system to encourage people to visit Burnley, stay in our fantastic hotels, drink in our pubs, eat in our restaurants and enjoy our rural countryside.

The collective effort of us all means that we are starting to see the economy emerge from this period. Our challenge now is to ensure the economic scars don’t appear; with existing jobs protected and new ones created.

Supporting people. That is what I have always committed to doing and what I will continue to work for.