Liam Byrne, Labour’s Shadow Mayor for the West Midlands today, stepped up his call for a £3.5 billion capital kickstart for the West Midlands as new figures show unemployment has soared.
Figures published by the ONS today showed that the number of people claiming unemployment benefit nationwide spiked during the coronavirus lockdown to over 2.1 million people.
But Byrne pointed to new Bank of England forecasts which show that unemployment in the West Midlands could more than double well into next year, up to 324,000. The last time the region saw unemployment that high was back in 1986.
Byrne is now calling for:
• A £3.5 billion capital kickstart programme to invest in infrastructure and affordable housebuilding across the region
• A jobs guarantee scheme, like the Future Jobs Fund, for those who lose their jobs
• A ‘carbon scrappage’ scheme to provide discounts for electric cars, and taxis with new discounts for energy efficient boilers, solar panels and home insulation
Liam Byrne said: “Our Tory mayor has decided that there is no point 'speculating' on the scale of what might be needed to spare our families the pain of unemployment. I beg to differ. When Rover collapsed more than ten years ago we rallied together fast with a special taskforce to bring together the key players to help workers retrain and move onto new jobs. After the global financial crash of 2008, it was Labour’s bold and ambitious scrappage scheme which ensured 400,000 new cars were built and protected jobs in the automotive sector in our region.”
‘Simple maths tells us that this may entail capital investment in the West Midlands of some £3.5 billion. But capital projects have a lead time. That is why we should start planning them now. Not least because this is a once in a century opportunity to start building the sort of infrastructure, we need to speed us on a path to a zero-carbon economy.
‘This isn’t just ‘big stuff’ like tram-lines. If we create a bold ‘carbon scrappage’ scheme, we could take petrol and diesel vehicles off the road, and massively increase home installation of retrofitting and solar power, doing away with fossil fuel guzzling boilers.
Liam's plan has won the backing across the region.
Walsall’s Labour Group Leader, Cllr Aftab Nawaz said, “Walsall is a proud community and we’ve struggled after 10 years of a Tory Government. Walsall needs bold and ambitious plans to overcome the effects of the coronavirus crisis and rebuild after a decade of austerity. People across Walsall need well-paid skilled jobs and Walsall deserves investment to help us reach our full potential. Liam’s plan delivers both.”
Colleen Fletcher, Labour MP for Coventry North East said: “I welcome Liam’s plan for the whole of the West Midlands. Coventry is a proud manufacturing City that is ready to play its part in the post Covid recovery. The Government – and our Tory Mayor – would do well to back Liam’s plan and ensure we protect jobs and livelihoods in the weeks and months ahead.”
Labour’s Leader in Dudley Cllr Qadar Zada said: “Huge levels of unemployment would be a disaster for Dudley. We need investment in our communities, our schools and in new green technology which will lead to more jobs. Liam’s plan would be terrific for our Borough. We just need to convince the Tory Mayor and the Tory Government to back it.”
Full tables can be found here: