14 North East Labour MPs have today (17th December 2021) joined together on behalf of businesses and workers in the North East to demand the Chancellor bring forward urgent business support.  

The joint letter, authored by Mary Kelly Foy MP (City of Durham), and co-signed by Labour Members of Parliament calls on Rishi Sunak to learn the lessons of the past two years and take swift targeted action to support the sectors where businesses and jobs are now at risk.  

 

The MPs state that “The government’s inaction will hit our region hard and make of a mockery of claims to ‘level up’ businesses and workers here (North East).” 

 

In the letter the North East’s Labour MPs have called on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak to: 

  • To uprate sick pay so that workers do not have to choose between doing the right things and self-isolating and losing earnings during a cost-of-living crisis.  

 

  • To introduce a package of targeted economic support to sectors such as hospitality and entertainment. 

 

  • To ensure that when public health guidance changes, economic support changes in step. 

 

  • That any further restrictions adopted as part of ‘Plan C’ are clearly communicated to business and trade unions, and to ensure that commensurate financial support is provided.” 

 

 They go on to say “As Labour MPs we are proud to stand up for businesses and workers in the North East and we call on the Conservatives to listen and act to avoid real economic harm “. 

The letter comes as the Chancellor faces criticism having only returned to the UK from California after public backlash on his whereabouts. 

Mary Kelly Foy MP for the City of Durham said:  

This should be the busiest time of the year for so many businesses. Pubs, restaurants, and many others should be bustling with festive trade but rising Omicron infections, combined with Government restrictions and guidance risk derailing the North East economy.

Trade bodies and businesses are telling us that bookings are being cancelled in worrying numbers. For example, a pub in my constituency, the Station House, has told me that trade is down 40% on the same week pre pandemic. 

The Conservatives simply cannot urge caution and introduce a lockdown by stealth while ignoring the damage inflicted on businesses and livelihoods if support is not forthcoming.

If economic support measures do not follow public health messaging, the consequences are obvious.

Businesses will go bust. People will be made redundant. Action must be taken today.

The North East has levels of unemployment above the national average. Government inaction will hit our region particularly hard and make of a mockery of claims to ‘level up’.”

Full text of Mary’s letter can be found below:

Dear Chancellor,

We are writing to you today, as it is clear that additional support measures are needed to protect
workers and businesses in our constituencies here in the North East of England as Omicron case
numbers increase this winter.

On 15th December, Professor Chris Whitty urged people to “think carefully” about their social
contacts over the Christmas period, and to “prioritise” social interactions. This has led to a sudden
increase in cancellations and reduction in footfall and potential trade for businesses. When
businesses are hit financially, we know that job losses will soon follow.

The Government cannot urge caution and create an unofficial lockdown by stealth to protect public
health yet provide no concrete support measures, at what should be the busiest time of the year for
many businesses.

We face one of the toughest phases of the pandemic and yet as of today there are no plans to
increase statutory sick pay which means that workers face the extraordinarily difficult decision of
staying safe or paying bills. Nor is there any new package of support measures to assist businesses
and protect jobs.

These concerns are being echoed by pubs, restaurants, theatres, and taxi firms in our
constituencies across the North East. They are without support, with industry trade bodies and trade
unions saying that they have not been consulted from the Government on these measures. Action
must be taken, and support provided, otherwise there will be no other conclusion than the
Government has been sitting on its hands rather than learning the lessons of the last two years.
Businesses feel ignored and abandoned. Meanwhile, workers are increasingly anxious that they
won’t have a job next week. The government’s inaction will hit our region hard and make of a
mockery of claims to ‘level up’. It is extraordinary that the Chancellor chose to spend four days in
California rather than listen to businesses and workers here.

Therefore, we urge you as a matter of priority to take action and introduce the following measures:
• To uprate sick pay so that workers do not have to choose between doing the right things and
self-isolating and losing earnings during a cost-of-living crisis.
• To introduce a package of targeted economic support to sectors such as hospitality and
entertainment.
• To ensure that when public health guidance changes, economic support changes in step.
• That any further restrictions adopted as part of ‘Plan C’ are clearly communicated to
business and trade unions, and to ensure that commensurate financial support is provided.

As Labour MPs we are proud to stand up for businesses and workers in the North East and we call on
the Conservatives to listen and act to avoid real economic harm.

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