This year more than ever, families and businesses were looking for assurances, support and certainty from the Budget.
The extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September is welcome news for people in Middlesbrough but this should have been confirmed before now to alleviate the uncertainty and fear felt by the many people who are understandably worried about their jobs.
The self-employed who have felt forgotten during this pandemic will finally get support – but again it feels too little too late. We have been calling for these support schemes to be available for many months now.
Middlesbrough has been one of the hardest hit communities over the past year and we risk losing a generation of young people given the alarming levels of youth unemployment and long-term unemployment. The Government’s Kickstart programme does not go far enough – benefitting just 1 out of 100 young people. Labour’s ‘Jobs Promise’ would see any young person away from work for six months offered a quality education, training or employment opportunity.
We need to see a huge commitment to education, skills and training from early years to adulthood to equip people for employment as we come out of this pandemic.
The decision to maintain the £20 Universal Credit uplift is welcome but why only a commitment to keep it for six months. The fact that the Government even considered removing the £20 shows their absolute disregard for the many families in Middlesbrough and across the country struggling to survive. Universal Credit is simply not enough to live on and people deserve more than a weak six-month promise.
I am of course pleased for Darlingon, but I remain incredibly disappointed that Middlesbrough was not chosen to be the location for the Northern Campus. This was the Government’s opportunity to show that ‘levelling ‘up’ is more than a soundbite – particularly as they took good quality HMRC jobs from our town in recent years. I am pleased however that the Tees Valley has been chosen and I hope that the people of Middlesbrough as well as Middlesex get the opportunity to work there. But the reality is that the 750 jobs go nowhere near replacing the loss of 6,680 civil servant jobs in the North east from 2010 to 2020 due to this Government making a deliberate decision to cut back on our home grown highly skilled and effective civil servants on Teesside such as the recently closed HMRC offices. But it’s good to see Rishi Sunak implementing the Labour Party’s 2019 manifesto commitment for a northern campus for the Treasury.
Teesside has been chosen as one of the eight freeports across the country. Labour is committed to a post-Brexit economy that delivers security and opportunity for every part of our country. Freeports are not a silver bullet for achieving that. It’s not just me saying it. It’s the OECD, RUSI and Tax Justice amongst many others. The low tariffs that apply in the UK undermine the Government’s own case for freeports and research has shown that just one per cent of UK imports would significantly benefit from ‘tariff inversion’ – the main driver of economic activity in freeports. There is also a risk that freeports simply move economic activity around rather than increase it and I also have real concerns around economic impact, tax avoidance risks, and potential for smuggling and money laundering. There are many questions – will the jobs created be well-paid, unionised and covered by the Unions’ national agreements in areas such as construction? How will freeports be governed and where is the transparency? Where’s the voice of working people in any of this? It feels very much like the whole issue is cloaked in secrecy and it begs the question why?
More than a decade of austerity meant we went into this pandemic with too many communities already struggling and inequality too wide. This budget fails to address the crisis in social care or the deep-seated insecurity and inequality in our society that has taken hold on the Tories watch. It fails to rebuild the foundations of our economy and how we will redress the balance in the long term and sadly just papers over the cracks.