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‘40,000 furloughed workers at risk in East End when Jobs Retention scheme ends’ mayor fears

PUBLISHED: 10:00 08 September 2020

Mayor John Biggs... backs Brown's alliance campaign to prioritise economic recovery out of pandemic crisis. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs... backs Brown's alliance campaign to prioritise economic recovery out of pandemic crisis. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

All 40,000 jobs that have been furloughed in the East End during the lockdown could be in jeopardy now that the government’s Job Retention scheme is coming to an end.

Almost 50,000 East End workers have now been furloughed, nearly a third of the working population. Picture: Mike BrookeAlmost 50,000 East End workers have now been furloughed, nearly a third of the working population. Picture: Mike Brooke

That’s the fear of the mayor of Tower Hamlets who is calling on the chancellor to step in and extend support for businesses hit by the economic impact of Coronavirus.

John Biggs has written to Downing Street with worries that jobs are at risk by what he calls the government’s “one-size fits all” approach for removing support in the week the furlough scheme is starting to wind up.

It would “choke off any recovery” while the UK is in recession, he stressed.

“Government support is needed because of the unprecedented situation businesses find themselves in,” the mayor insists.

Mayor Biggs letter to Downing Street... urging help for furloughed workers when scheme ends. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor Biggs letter to Downing Street... urging help for furloughed workers when scheme ends. Picture: Mike Brooke

“It’s going to be ‘sink or swim time’ for many businesses and we need government to provide backing for them at this crucial time.”

Iconic East End street markets and high streets that are “a jewel in the crown” are being promoted by Tower Hamlets Council.

But the local authority says it needs the chancellor to foot the bill of recovery.

The Job Retention scheme has paid 80 per cent of workers’ wages who’ve been furloughed since the lockdown began in March. But that goes down this month to 70pc, with the employer paying 10pc.

Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman... Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman... "Businesses will suffer if government withdraws furlough support too quickly." Picture: Mike Brooke

The scheme finishes at the end of October creating “a cliff edge” for businesses.

The mayor’s letter to Downing Street urges the chancellor to look at each sector individually.

It is a sentiment echoed by the council’s lead cabinet member for work and economic growth, cllr Motin Uz-Zaman, who said: “Businesses will suffer if government withdraws support too quickly.

“The East End is a resilient place and we’ll continue to make sure our economy weathers this storm.

Part of Brick Lane getting pedestrianised to create outdoor dining piazza to boost trade. Picture: Mike BrookePart of Brick Lane getting pedestrianised to create outdoor dining piazza to boost trade. Picture: Mike Brooke

“But it would be short-sighted for the government to step back now and put jobs at risk.”

The council has brought in a temporary pedestrian-only scheme in part of a once-thriving Brick Lane allowing restaurants to move tables into the street to create a Continental atmosphere which would help encourage more diners. It comes at a time when the government is washing the dishes on its “Eat Out to Help Out” promotion which is now also ending.


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