Over 200 residents have joined Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson, Judith Rogerson, in writing to Andrew Jones MP calling on him to fight for the furloughed and lobby the Government to extend the furlough scheme.
Unemployment in Harrogate & Knaresborough has almost tripled since March 2020, so many people have very real worries that this will rocket further when the furlough scheme ends next month.
Andrew Jones MP called these concerns over unemployment “alarmist”, when local Liberal Democrats called for an extension in August.
In the letter to Andrew Jones MP, Judith Rogerson and over 200 residents said:
With our local hospitality and retail sectors under enormous pressure, reducing the support given by the furlough scheme will only force businesses to meet yet another significant cost.
It’s too soon to take away this crucial support for businesses and their staff. For businesses reopening, social distancing rules are still strict and the possibility of a second wave in the coming months is still very high. France, Germany, and Ireland have extended their furlough schemes into 2021 for this reason.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister has demonstrated that restrictions are getting tighter.
Local businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to operate, especially in the hospitality sector which Harrogate district’s economy relies on so heavily.
Speaking after the announcement, Judith Rogerson said:
It was hugely disappointing to see Andrew Jones dismiss people’s very real concerns over unemployment as ‘alarmist’.
Over the past week I’ve been contacted by local people who have already lost their jobs and are dreading the future as the furlough scheme starts to wind down. I hope that Mr Jones reconsiders his comments and joins us in calling on Government to extend this lifeline for so many.
This week we’ve seen stricter rules introduced that will make it more difficult for local businesses, not least those in the crucial hospitality services. This isn’t the time to take away furlough support and force them to lay off staff to make ends meet.
These are people’s livelihoods that we are talking about. Other Governments have already extended their furlough schemes and we must do the same.
Andrew Jones MP said:
The support for business through this pandemic has been unprecedented and huge in scale.
When businesses were closed nearly 16,000 people in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge were supported using the scheme enabling their employers to keep them employed. In addition Harrogate & Knaresborough businesses saw nearly £29 million awarded in business grants and almost £73 million of Bounce Bank and Business Interruption Loans. Plus there have been discretionary grants schemes administered by local councils, deferral of tax liabilities, the eat-out-to-help-out scheme – which funded 136,000 meals in our area – and a reduction of VAT in the hospitality industry.
But our country is not facing the economy of March, when we were at the height of the strict lockdown. Businesses have opened up again. Across the country millions of people have come off the furlough scheme. The economic situation has changed and the need changed, so the support package evolves.
I welcome the package announced today. And said so in the House. Business groups have welcomed it too.
Let’s remember that we are talking about people’s livelihoods. To try and make this in to a political football is extremely cynical particularly from a party that won’t give a date when or circumstances in which they think any of the support schemes should end or even recognise the economic challenges change. And to deliberately quote others out of context on such a serious issue is the kind of attack politics we are seeing in the United States – it isn’t the kind of politics we have been used to in Harrogate and Knaresborough.
As we move through the pandemic, different responses are needed for different situations. People know it, and business groups have said so. I am pleased that these are forthcoming following today’s announcements.
A copy of the open letter to Andrew Jones MP can be found here.
The latest ONS data for Harrogate & Knaresborough is available here.
The latest Government data for the United Kingdom shows:
- The unemployment rate grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, compared with 3.9% previously.
- There were 156,000 fewer young people in employment in the three months to July.
- Some 695,000 UK workers have disappeared from the payrolls of UK firms since March.
- More than 5m people (including furloughed workers) were still temporarily away from work in July.