The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today accused the Chancellor of delivering a Budget that ‘lacks an ambitious vision for building a better future for all who have suffered during the pandemic”.
Sadiq had urged the Government to come forward with a bold, 1945-style plan to build back better as the city and the country recovers – and to honour all who have suffered and lost loved ones as a result of Covid-19.
However, he said the plans laid out by Rishi Sunak MP today will not make London OR the UK fairer, greener or more prosperous.
The Budget will not do enough to help create much-needed jobs in the capital, or protect existing ones, and Londoners and businesses will need far more support over the coming months than the Government intends to provide.
The short-term support announced for the capital’s economy is welcome and necessary, including new grants for high street businesses and the arts sector, support for the self-employed and the announcement of a new freeport of Tilbury and London.
However, the Government’s delay in confirming the extension of the furlough scheme, the business rates holiday and the reduced five per cent VAT rate for hospitality has undoubtedly cost jobs and made the life of businesses harder.
And the Chancellor should today have extended the business rates holiday until later in the year when footfall and tourism returns – and must be willing to extend all of these measures should the worst happen and there is a third wave.
The Budget also fails to provide a long-term vision for when restrictions are eventually lifted. Sadiq has called on ministers gradually to replace the current emergency measures with a national jobs guarantee – linked to good quality apprenticeships and in-work training.
The Mayor is working with businesses on a roadmap for London’s recovery and has committed an extra £5million to a campaign to kickstart domestic tourism and the city’s recovery once restrictions lift. With the Government today failing to offer any similar proposals, or to match fund the Mayor’s scheme, Sadiq believes that the capital is being left to fend for itself.
London’s economy accounts for a quarter of the UK’s total economic output and Sadiq believes that London’s success is integral to the UK’s recovery.
However, the Budget confirms that the Government seems intent on ushering in a new era of austerity in London that will hamper the city’s economic recovery and affect the most vulnerable.
The Government is still refusing properly to refund regional and local Government in London for the cost of the pandemic, with the Greater London Authority Group facing a £367m Covid black hole this year and next that makes cuts to vital public services inevitable.
There was no significant additional investment in the genuinely affordable housing London so desperately needs and insufficient funding for the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade.
There was also no fair funding settlement for Transport for London for 2021/22, which addresses the devastating impact of the pandemic on TfL’s finances, together with a new funding model.
The Budget also failed to tackle underlying inequalities in our society – the Mayor had called for the £20 uplift in Universal Credit to be made permanent, the Benefit Cap to be lifted, ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions to be suspended and an increase to statutory sickpay for those who cannot afford to self-isolate.
The Government has not increased the eligibility criteria for financial support for those who need to self-isolate in order to prevent a surge in cases caused by those who can’t afford to stay at home. Many Londoners, including hundreds of thousands of those who are self-employed, remain excluded from Government support despite today’s announcements.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Today’s Budget totally lacked an ambitious vision for building a better future for all who have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic..
“This has been undoubtedly the toughest year that London and the UK has faced since World War Two and while there is now some light at the end of the tunnel, Londoners and businesses will need financial support for months to come.
“The Government owes it to the more than 120,000 people who have lost their lives during the pandemic, to the NHS and key workers who have done so much to keep us safe and moving, and to everyone who has followed the rules and put their lives on hold – to build a better and fairer country after the pandemic. Yet there was a distinct lack of good news today for the vast number of key workers earning low wages who got us through this crisis.
“Unfortunately, it is clear that there is no ambitious planning from the Government for our recovery. We simply cannot afford to return to the entrenched unemployment of the 1980s which destroyed so many lives and communities. There was too little from the Chancellor today to kickstart the economy, create new jobs and protect existing ones or to provide the level of support our businesses and least well-off will need for many months to come.
“I fully support levelling up the rest of the country, but that should not mean levelling down London and its communities. Today’s budget takes London’s recovery for granted and without support from the government that recovery cannot be guaranteed.
“This matters for the whole country because, whether it’s right or not, for the foreseeable future it will be London that is the powerhouse of the UK economy, helping make sure the country can pay its bills.”
The Mayor has welcomed the creation of a Thames freeport that he hopes will help deliver his vision for a Thames Estuary Production Corridor, transforming the Thames Estuary into a hub for the creative and cultural industries, and bringing jobs and growth to benefit London and the wider South East.