Former prime minister Gordon Brown and Labour’s Shadow Mayor for the West Midlands Liam Byrne MP have today joined forces with trade unions and Labour local government leaders to launch the Alliance for Full Employment across the West Midlands.
The initiative comes as Conservative MPs across the region voted against Labour’s motion in the House of Commons to bring in targeted support for wages in sectors still suffering from the coronavirus crisis.
The call for wage support is at the heart of an eight point plan which Gordon Brown has launched nationally, is backed by Labour leaders and Mayors including Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan, across the UK. The plan includes subsidies for part-time working through 2021 - as in Germany and France - particularly in key slow-to-recover sectors - and continued furlough support for workers where there are local lockdowns.
Liam has led calls in the West Midlands for a bold plan to Keep the West Midlands Working, starting with action to support the region’s 300,000 manufacturing jobs, and a fair share of the UK’s capital budget.
Byrne’s analysis of Government budgets shows that if the Government’s five year capital budget was allocated according to the West Midlands share of Britain’s population, then an extra £2 billion would flow into the region.
‘For months I’ve been warning that unless Government acts now, we risk unemployment doubling to a level we last saw in the late ‘Eighties. That will scar our region for a generation. We need ministers to get their act together and put in place a plan to keep the West Midlands Working, starting with action to save our manufacturing industry.’
‘The truth is the money is available to give us the capital kickstart we need to deal with the risk of rising unemployment - if only ministers would give us our fair share of the national pot’.
Gordon Brown said: “Action is urgent because six months of warnings about the job crisis ahead have fallen on deaf ears. It is time to tackle this Government head on – and demand a new deal to stave off the worst recession in modern history and halt the coming tsunami of mass unemployment.
'Right now, across Europe, detailed schemes are being drawn up for a green new deal; for subsidising part-time works; and for a boost to infrastructure investment. This is absolutely vital for the West Midlands as the home of Britain’s automotive manufacturing industry.
"Ten years ago, Liam worked with me to put in place the plan to save our carmakers. Now we need the same sort of action. Liam is exactly the leader we need to help us now mobilise the resources top prevent the horror of mass unemployment.”
Annmarie Kilkline, Regional Secretary of UNITE said: “The UK manufacturing industry is world-leading. And here in the West Midlands the sector is critical to the economy. We are known around the world for our engineering skills, incredible products and innovation, but without the support of the government in getting through this pandemic, our region will lose this incredible expertise. We welcome this campaign that Liam is launching today and Unite the Union will be working with him and others to ensure we do all we can ensure the our region and our members come through this period with a bright future.”
Ravi Subramanian, Regional Secretary of UNISON said: “For the West Midlands to prosper after the damage brought about by the Coronavirus and this Tory government’s inept handling of the crisis, we need strong public services and local government to underpin the kickstart to industry and manufacturing in our region. We can’t rely on the current failing Tory mayor to provide the necessary leadership. Only Labour’s Liam Byrne has the vision and tenacity to lead our region back to prosperity.”
Joe Morgan, Regional Secretary of the GMB said: “The ceramics industry beats at the heart of Stoke-on-Trent and the West Midlands, not simply as an employer but as a cultural and historical trade. Here in the Midlands we produce world renowned products, and without investment and support we will lose not only these British made products, but also the skills and knowledge to ever make them again. GMB West Midlands fully supports the campaign to invest in industry in the West Midlands, and welcomes Liam Byrne’s plans to help workers and our members through this incredibly difficult time.”
Cllr Ian Brookfield, Leader of Wolverhampton City Council and Lead for Economy and Innovation on the West Midlands Combined Authority said: “There are thousands of jobs at risk in the West Midlands. Our Region has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and we need, now, to act quickly to ensure we can keep the West Midlands working. A focused extension of the furlough scheme and continuing support for the self-employed are essential to prevent job losses and then we need large scale investment to cement the West Midlands position as the home of green manufacturing in the UK”
The plan set out by Gordon Brown in the Daily Mirror last week and which the Alliance for Full Employment will campaign includes:
- A new constitution for the Bank of England that requires them to take action on unemployment as seriously as action on inflation - with no interest rate rises until unemployment is again belowpre crisis levels
- A revamped Growth Fund with regional hubs to buy shares in viable firms to replace unrepayable loans
- Continued furloughs where there are local lockdowns
- Subsidies for part-time working through 2021 - as in Germany and France - particularly in key slow-to-recover sectors
- Front-loading big infrastructure projects so they become shovel ready soon
- Continued links to Europe’s job-creating science and skills programmes such as Horizon and Erasmus which non-EU countries can join
- A jobs-creating Green New Deal - perhaps also linked to Europe’s bold plans for hydrogen, wind and wave power, including a North Sea grid
- a genuine guarantee that gives each one the chance of work training or education, for the 500,000 young people who have left school, college, university and training, joining 250,000 already unemployed.
Notes to Editors
Across the whole of the West Midlands there are 697,000 people on furlough. If one in four are laid off, then unemployment will rise as the Bank of England projects.
A fiscal stimulus is one of the most effective ways to inject demand into the economy as workplaces are unlocked.
At the last budget the Treasury said it would increase capital spending to 3% of GDP. This was projected to entail a rise of £19 billion - to give a total capital spending pot of £358 billion over the next five years.
At the moment, our region has 9% of the population - but we only get 7% of the nation’s capital spending.
If the government doles out the capital spending for the next five years, as it has in the past, that means we’d get £24.6 billion in capital spending.
However, if the capital spend is allocated according to population, the House of Commons Library analysis shows we would receive £32 billion - an uplift of £7.3 billion.