1,200 Labour council leaders, mayors, and councillors from across the UK have written to Boris Johnson, urging him to rethink plans to scrap furlough outright and instead implement a targeted financial support scheme to prevent mass unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter outlines the signatories’ support for the Alliance for Full Employment – launched by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the North’s Metro Mayors, the Welsh First Minister, Mayor of Bristol and Mayor of Greater London, Sadiq Khan, last week – and the Daily Mirror’s ‘Keep Britain Working’ campaign.
The campaign, backed by around 70 council leaders and mayors, demands that the government sets up a financial support system that targets industries worst hit by the pandemic; supports any areas under local lockdown restrictions; and ensures incomes for people who are forced to self-isolate.
The government has said furlough will end in its entirety on October 31st, a decision that is being criticised as overly simplistic – detractors say it will hinder economic recovery, whilst also making it more difficult to contain the virus.
Co-signatories, Cllr Jack Abbott and Cllr Michael Payne, said: “The communities we represent are facing an unprecedented employment crisis should Boris Johnson not reverse his decision to withdraw the furlough scheme in its entirety – he is putting millions of jobs at risk.
“The fact that well over 1,000 councillors and local representatives have signed this letter underlines the strength of feeling behind this campaign. Without targeted support for sectors and local lockdown areas that have been badly affected by the pandemic, we know that viable businesses will fail and employment will be lost. This will extinguish any hopes of a quick economic recovery from the deep recession we are facing.
“Boris Johnson must reconsider in order to save jobs, and to save lives.”
Gordon Brown, added: “So many Labour leaders across the localities of Britain coming together to back our Alliance for Full Employment shows the extreme anxiety about mounting unemployment.
“Councillors know best what is happening in their local communities where too many people are worried sick about their livelihoods.
“Mass unemployment is not the inevitable economic outcome to the Covid pandemic. But it will be unless the Prime Minister makes the political decision to change course.
“Only by committing now to strategic use of furlough and full quarantine support for families forced into local lockdown can unemployment be kept low after October.
“Guaranteeing youth jobs, training or education now will protect the life chances of our young generation.
“And commitment to a Green Sea around all Britain’s coastal waters will provide the demand that will create the onshore jobs that will enable all our regions to thrive.”
Leader of Watford Labour Group Cllr Nigel Bell said: “If Boris Johnson pushes ahead with his plans to make a blanket withdrawal of furlough, thousands of jobs in Watford will be put at risk. Businesses will struggle to survive. Our residents will face an impossible choice between their income and their health.
“That is why we need targeted support for businesses worst hit by the pandemic, cover for those areas which fall under local lockdown restrictions; and the certainty of income for people who are forced to self-isolate, including those who are self-employed.
“Our residents have made enormous sacrifices throughout this terrible pandemic – we now need Boris Johnson to step up and give hard-working people the security they need.”
More information about the Alliance for Full Employment can be found here: www.affe.co.uk.