KATE OSBORNE: Government measures to help businesses and families simply did not go far enough

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all of their good wishes and kind words following my recent diagnosis of coronavirus. It really means a lot and I hope to be back in Westminster as soon as possible.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 19th March 2020, 12:00 am
PM comes in for criticism from the Jarrow MP. Simon Dawson/PA Wire
PM comes in for criticism from the Jarrow MP. Simon Dawson/PA Wire

Today we are facing a huge and unprecedented challenge on a scale bigger than anything we have ever seen in our lifetimes.

The impact of coronavirus around the world has so far dominated the headlines in 2020 and the Conservative government’s response has remained well and truly under the microscope.

Following on from his Budget last week, the Chancellor earlier this week stood alongside our floundering Prime Minister to announce an array of measures to stop those businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic from going under.

Worried businesses will be offered £330 billion in loans, zero business rates, and up to £25,000 in cash grants for small firms.

And homeowners will be offered a three-month mortgage payment holiday by their lender if they need it.

This comes just 24 hours after Boris Johnson told people to think twice before going to pubs, clubs, theatres, and restaurants to stop the spread of the virus - prompting fears of an economic meltdown.

Although any measures to help businesses and families during these most testing of times is welcome, they simply did not go far enough.

Where is a rent holiday alongside the three-month mortgage break?

Where is the help for those being laid off and the self-employed?

Where is the financial support for social care?

And where is the new money for our already over-stretched public services?

Admittedly, the government promised further announcements relating to additional support in the coming days but at the time of writing they need to do more.

Although this was the biggest investment from the Tories since 2010, that’s not saying much, because our public services, our economic infrastructure and living standards have been decimated over the past decade under this callous government.

The measures introduced by the Chancellor go nowhere near to reversing the damage that has already been done to our communities and helping families and businesses through these difficult times.

More cash is needed to keep our local services running. South Tyneside Council, one of the councils serving my constituency, has been one of the hardest hit local authorities, having already lost 60 per cent of its government funding since 2010.

Gateshead Council, too, has also had to make budget savings of £170 million since 2010, with £50 million needed to be saved over the next five years.

Earlier this week statutory sick pay remained very low, and the five week-wait for claimants’ first Universal Credit payment remained in place.

There was no support for the self-employed, the low-paid and those workers on an insecure, zero-hours contract.

The Budget claimed £6 billion would be invested in the NHS budget, short of the £30 billion needed.

The lack of NHS funding is having a huge effect on services closer to home. We will keep up the fight for the future of South Tyneside District Hospital which, without a terrific campaign spearheaded by trade unions and the community, would be a bigger casualty of the axe-wielding Conservatives.

I’ve also raised my concerns in Parliament about the closure of St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow and let’s not forget that the Jarrow walk-in centre closed five years ago.

We shouldn’t need to battle to save our NHS, but this government, no matter what spin they churn out, are forcing us to defend what we have when they threaten to take it away.

The Chancellor says the government will do “whatever it takes” but as things stand he’s failed to go a long way to addressing those people’s concerns who are being laid off and losing their jobs.

Countries such as France, Sweden, and Denmark are doing all of this and more.

Workers and businesses need supported now, not in a few days’ time. This government are either incompetent or just don’t care.

Take care and stay safe.