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Chancellor condemned for failing to announce creation of new jobs amid rising unemployment

CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak was accused today of missing opportunities to repair the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic by failing to invest money in creating jobs.

In the Commons, he announced his £30 billion summer economic statement.

It included VAT cuts for hospitality and tourism firms, stamp duty cuts, and discounts for people eating in restaurants to stimulate the ailing hospitality sector.

Companies retaining workers after the furlough scheme ends will be given a £1,000 per-employee bonus if they continuously employ them through to January on an average of at least £520 a month.

Firms are also to be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 and a new bonus of £1,500 for apprentices over 25.

The furlough scheme winds down in October, and Mr Sunak said he is acting in an attempt to avoid widespread redundancies after the economy contracted by 25 per cent in just two months.

His statement comes after warnings from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that Britain’s unemployment rate could rise to 14.8 per cent, with job losses comparable to the 1930s.

Mr Sunak warned that “hardship lies ahead” but insisted that no-one will be left “without hope.”

However, he added that the government will not be able to “protect every job.”

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds took him to task over his lack of policies for job creation, after the government previously insisted that it will focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

Mr Sunak was originally meant to announce a full emergency Budget, but has put it off until the autumn.

Ms Dodds said: “Britain should have had a Back to Work Budget; but instead, we got this summer statement with many of the big decisions put off until later.” 

She pointed out that reports this week claim that British workers have already been “the biggest casualty in the global jobs cut”.

Ms Dodds also reiterated Labour’s demand that Mr Sunak “abandons his one-size-fits-all approach to withdrawing the job retention and self-employed schemes.”

She said that certain industries and workers who have been worst hit by the pandemic, and that are hit by future localised lockdowns, should continue to receive some support after October 31.

Ms Dodds warned that unemployment claims is on course to hit three million – the highest number since the previous record in 1986.

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said the package did not even mention retail, “a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency. Now, the situation is much worse.”

He called for “a stimulus package to save the industry,” which employs three million people.

The TUC also urged the government to do more to prevent mass unemployment after sectors such as aviation, retail and hospitality have announced thousands of job cuts over recent months.

General secretary Frances O’Grady also called for “targeted support for the hardest-hit sectors like manufacturing and aviation.”

She also called for new jobs through new public investment in new homes, the public sector, childcare, faster broadband, better transport and green tech.

She added: “The government should have announced extra investment in jobs across all public services – starting with filling the 200,000 vacancies in the NHS and social care.

“And if the Chancellor wants people to have the confidence to eat out, he should have announced a pay rise for hard-pressed key workers rather than dining out discounts for the well-off.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said there was “next to nothing” in Mr Sunak’s announcement for public services, and that proper investment in the public sector would “provide many more jobs.”

Dr Faiza Shaheen, director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, described Mr Sunak’s plans as “a sticking plaster on the same old failing economic system.”

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