Last week, in what was one of the most highly anticipated Budgets in a decade, the Chancellor stood before the House of Commons to present the policies and measures that he and this Government are to take over the coming financial year. Not only did this Budget have to meet people’s immediate needs related to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was also crucial that it chartered a course to economic recovery and prosperity in the future for people, no matter in which part of the United Kingdom they live and work.
Across Hastings and Rye over the past year, and as I have learnt through listening, speaking, and corresponding with many constituents on a day-to-day basis, the Government’s financial assistance has been crucial as Covid-19 has taken a large economic toll on many people’s livelihoods. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has, for example, supported over 14,000 local jobs, £17 million has been delivered via the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and nearly £30 million has been given to businesses in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors, which are the heart of our local economy. I warmly welcome, therefore, the Chancellor’s commitment to extending the financial assistance, including the VAT cut and business rates holiday, to give our local businesses a chance to rebuild and help keep the costs of staycations and our social reunions affordable for the hard-pressed public. The additional support announced for businesses, like the New Restart Grant, will be key to helping small and medium-sized companies thrive once again when restrictions are lifted.
Looking to the future, however, in ‘Building Back Better’ there is a necessary clear focus on jobs, retraining and supporting people back into employment. People are facing challenges in the labour market and we know that the jobs market for young people has been especially hit by the effects of coronavirus. This is why the Government has developed ‘Our Plan for Jobs’ including schemes to encourage businesses to take on young staff, such as the Apprentice Bonus and Kickstart schemes.
We also have a new DWP Youth Hub in Hastings, bringing together a number of organisations, including East Sussex College, to help support our young people into work, by helping with skills training, interview and CV techniques.
But it is not just about young people; the Government has also announced a number of measures to support the over 50s, for example, many of whom are highly skilled but may need to retrain to access jobs in a changed market. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee, announced by the Prime Minister last year, will give thousands of adults without a full qualification at level 3 (A level equivalent), a chance to retrain on fully-funded courses from April this year. This will help them gain further skills and open-up job opportunities.
Many of the job support programmes are delivered by job centre work coaches – people who can make a real difference to our local communities here, in Hastings and Rye. We have Job Finding Support, which is designed to help those who have recently become unemployed access personalised support to help them re-enter employment as quickly as possible. The new £238 million Job Entry Targeted Support provides employment support, giving people the tools and confidence they need to secure a job. The sector-based work academy programmes are helping people retrain in new industries, helping to improve job prospects.
The Government’s Plan for Jobs is creating new opportunities, boosting skills and delivering a package of support for all age groups. Whilst the coming months will undoubtedly pose new challenges as we irreversibly exit lockdown, I am looking forward to helping support local jobs and businesses, including highly-skilled ones, meeting our important environmental responsibilities, as well as promoting beautiful Hastings and Rye as a top destination for domestic tourism.