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Ministers accused of 'pulling life raft away while storm still rages' as Labour warns of job loss crisis

An empty street in Newcastle (Credit: PA)

3 min read

Labour has accused the Government of "pulling the life raft away while the storm is still raging" as it warned some regions of the UK are set to be disproportionately hit by a looming redundancy crisis.

Data analysis by the party shows the percentage of jobs in sectors at risk due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is highest in the north west, north east and Wales, which have among the largest retail and manufacturing workforces.

In the east Midlands, 13% are employed in manufacturing - the largest percentage in the country - while the west Midlands and Yorkshire follow close behind, with between 10-12%.

By contrast, just 2.2% of the London's workforce is in manufacturing, but the capital is set to be hardest hit by a potential aviation jobs crisis, with 64,000 jobs relying on aviation and travel.

Sir Keir Starmer's party says those regions are likely to feel the impact of a recession far more deeply.

Labour has called on ministers to halt the blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme  - which ends in October  - and instead offer targeted support to the sectors struggling the most. 

“Ministers are writing off parts of the UK as the country enters recession, with figures suggesting some places will be disproportionately hit by the jobs crisis," said shadow business minister Matthew Pennycook.

“Labour is calling for the government to U-turn on its damaging blanket approach to withdrawing furlough, which fails to consider the circumstances of different sectors or the impact on the communities that have a proud history in these industries.

“The government needs to do right by these communities and businesses, and see them through the crisis by targeting support, not pull the life raft away while the storm is still raging on.”


More than 100,000 redundancies have already been announced across the UK as businesses struggle to rebuild after the economic shock of lockdown, with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Centrica, which owns British Gas, among the worst hit.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: "Every job lost is a tragedy and we must do all we can to safeguard people’s livelihoods. 

“We are in the midst of a jobs crisis right across the UK, but these figures show certain areas are more at risk than others.

"The Government’s one size fits all approach will see some communities hit harder and they must adopt a more tailored approach now if we are to avoid further job losses.”

But a Government spokesperson insisted Boris Johnson's administration would "not be blown off course in its commitment to levelling up opportunities across the UK – investing in education, technology and measures to support and create jobs".

“We have acted quickly to deliver one of the most generous and comprehensive packages of support in the world worth an initial £160 billion for all sectors - including the manufacturing industry," they added.

“This includes supporting nearly 9.6 million jobs through the furlough scheme which employers across the UK have used to support their staff.”

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