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Furloughed East End workers reach almost 50,000 as mayor joins Gordon Brown’s call for job retention pledge

PUBLISHED: 12:42 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:08 16 September 2020

Former prime minister Gordon Brown warning government of mass unemployment crisis when furlough scheme ends. Picture: Joe Lord/Archant

Former prime minister Gordon Brown warning government of mass unemployment crisis when furlough scheme ends. Picture: Joe Lord/Archant

Joe Lord/Archant

Former prime minister Gordon Brown’s national alliance campaign for economic recovery received Tower Hamlets mayor’s backing today as the East End’s furloughed workers soared to almost 50,000 because of the pandemic.

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

One-in-three East End workers now face “catastrophe” when the government’s furlough scheme winds down at the end of the month.

The mayor joined Mr Brown’s alliance warning the government to make the nation’s priority to extend the furlough scheme and calling for nationwide economic recovery policies to prevent mass redundancies.

“We face an unemployment crisis,” the mayor warned. “Nearly 50,000 jobs are furloughed in Tower Hamlets.

“The withdrawal of the scheme could be catastrophic. Mass unemployment will only worsen the huge economic challenges we face and bring yet more hardship to so many families who are already struggling.”

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

The alliance campaign calls on the government to extend economic support including the furlough scheme and make sure workers aren’t “financially punished for self-isolating” if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

It wants urgent action to rescue high streets to protect shops and small traders, to provide a fully-funded youth jobs guarantee programme and a “new deal” to boost the economy and protect the environment.

The mayor’s cabinet member for work and economic growth, Motin Uz-zaman, said: “The impact is going to be enormous as furlough winds down. Many businesses will struggle and many more jobs will be lost without support.

“The government must recognise the damage that mass unemployment will do and must step in urgently with support.”

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

The number of furloughed jobs in Tower Hamlets has reached 47,600 under the government’s Job Retention scheme, latest statistics show, which represents 29pc of all employment in the East End.

The mayor wrote to Downing Street last week worried that jobs are at risk when the furlough scheme wind up which would create “a cliff edge for businesses” while the country is in recession, he stressed.

Iconic East End street markets and high streets that are “a jewel in the crown” are being promoted by the council, but it needs the chancellor to foot the bill.

Gordon Brown, who left D0wning Street after losing the 2010 general election to David Cameron, said this week that young people a decade on are now facing “the worst of times” while the present government’s youth employment programme was helping only 250,000 out of three-and-a-half million under-25s.

Ex-PM Gordon Brown... Ex-PM Gordon Brown... "The needs in our communities are greatausterity now makes even less economic sense in 2020." Picture: Joe Lord/Archant at Bethnal Green's Rich Mix in 2009.

The former PM who was also chancellor for 11 years added: “I would maintain furlough payments for key workers vital to our economy, if necessary supporting part-time work.

“Preventing unnecessary bankruptcies and unemployment this winter will lead to a stronger and more lasting recovery later.

“The needs in our communities are great—austerity now makes even less economic sense in 2020.”

The mayor of Tower Hamlets is among other political leaders all over Britain who have endorsed the former PM’s campaign, including the mayors of London, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow and the Welsh first minister.


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