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Experts ask can Whitehall alone get economy moving again?

Experts have warned that getting the economy back up and running cannot be achieved from Whitehall alone, as the chancellor unveils his ‘plan for jobs’.

Speaking in Parliament today (8 July), Rishi Sunak unveiled a number of measures ‘to protect, support and create jobs’.

The measures include a new £2bn Kickstart Scheme to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country.

The chancellor also announced a £1,000 Job Retention Bonus for firms who keep furloughed workers.

And a £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme to pay for green improvements such as loft, wall and floor insulation.

The measures were welcomed by the director of the think tank IPPR North, Sarah Longlands, but she warned ‘I fear that he has too much confidence in the power of Whitehall to deliver this plan’.

‘Getting our economy back up and running cannot be achieved from Whitehall alone,’ added Ms Longlands.

‘The chancellor talked today about the value of endurance. In the North and across the regions of England, businesses, communities and local councils have had to endure years of centralised decision making, which has seen them become poorer, sicker and with fewer job opportunities.

‘They have had to endure 10 years of austerity which has seen the most vulnerable in society, our children, those living with disabilities and older people in care disproportionately affected.’

The acting director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Helen Barnard, welcomed the measures designed to tackle risk of long-term youth unemployment, but added  ‘we must not repeat the mistakes of the past by adopting an “any job will do” mentality’.

‘An inclusive recovery that tackles poverty must target investment in skills and opportunities in areas with weaker economies and support those people bearing the brunt of furlough unwinding, job losses and reduction in hours,’ said Ms Barnard.

‘Now is the time to unleash a good jobs recovery which rights the wrong of in-work poverty by tackling low pay, insecure hours and lack of flexible employment. Investing in young people is welcome, but we also need a plan to address the barriers holding back women, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people in the labour market,’ she added.

‘We also need to ensure that workers over 25 receive the support they need to obtain skills to succeed in the changing jobs market and escape poverty.’

While the director of the Centre for Progressive Policy, Charlotte Alldritt said the measures ‘lack the ambition and size to make more than a dent on the recovery and levelling up agenda’.

‘Skills, employment support, community public and mental health services are the new frontline in the fight against the impact of Covid-19. Investment in these services is the way we create a dynamic private sector and lay the foundations for an inclusive recovery across the country,’ she added. 

‘He also needs to think more locally. By its own admission, central government has a poor track record on delivering large scale projects from the top down. It must resist the temptation to centralise power in Whitehall again now in a bid to ‘grip’ the situation. No.10’s institutional reform agenda should prioritise giving places the data, policy and investment decision making powers to level up from the ground up.’

Photo Credit – Falco (Pixabay)

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