Last week, we saw confirmation that the UK now has the worst death toll in Europe and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for every nation but the spectacularly poor handling of it by the Conservatives has only served to make a serious situation desperately worse.
All eyes now turn to the forthcoming Budget at the beginning of March and what action the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who has been missing in action over the last few months, will take. Families across Llanelli, including many who have lost their livelihoods or seen their incomes reduced, will be watching closely.
Labour would rebuild stronger by supporting businesses and families through the crisis. First, with economic support that goes hand-in-hand with health restrictions. Then by securing the economy and putting it on the path to growth.
Businesses create the jobs and drive the growth that will build the recovery. The Welsh Labour Government has provided the best level of business support packages of any part of the UK and the Budget must give small and medium sized businesses the space to breathe and recover from the pandemic.
Protecting family finances is also crucial. Two in five working people have less than £100 in savings, putting them and their families at risk if an unexpected bill lands. Too many people are in insecure work whilst the Conservatives want to remove further protections from people. Labour would scrap the Conservatives’ cruel cut to Universal Credit which will hit many families already struggling to make ends meet as it is.
We need to take action to protect jobs, ending the last-minute scramble around wage support with an immediate ‘smart’ extension to the furlough scheme so it remains open while public health restrictions are in place and demand is severely affected. We would introduce new training to help furloughed workers improve their skills and tough conditions on employers to stop abuse.
Labour would also bring forward at least £30billion in planned capital investment over the next 18 months to ‘Build it in Britain’ again and support the creation of 400,000 new jobs in every part of our country in areas like energy efficiency and we would fix the failing Kickstart scheme, which is currently only helping 1 in every 100 young people trapped in longer-term unemployment.
All of this would be underpinned with a cast-iron commitment to end the waste and cronyism of the Tories – the billions in taxpayer money that the Conservatives have poured down the drain during the crisis.
We cannot return to the same old policies that weakened our country’s foundations. Instead we need a responsible but ambitious plan to grow our economy, spread opportunity and create a more secure economy.