Shadow Mayor for the West Midlands Liam Byrne has called on the government to quickly announce plans to kickstart the economy so that “the great lockdown does not become the great downturn”.
In a speech today, Labour’s Mayoral candidate revealed shocking new figures from KPMG and Oxford Economics suggesting that the West Midlands could become the hardest hit region from the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. As many as 150,000 jobs could be lost in the worst case scenario, with economic output in the region falling by as much as 10% this year.
Under Liam’s plan, mayors and council leaders would be given sweeping new powers to organise economic recovery in their area. Unlike Tory Austerity, which has hit the poorest in Birmingham the hardest, taxes on wealth and dirty air would fund a £2.9billion emergency capital spending programme. This would be invested in green jobs and ensure that anyone who is made unemployed as a result of this crisis is guaranteed a job.
In the speech Liam Byrne, who is also MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, said: “Experts believe the world economy could take as long as five years to recover to their pre-outbreak level.
“Now, support has gone in. Around the world, some £6 trillion has been pumped in by governments.
“Comparatively, our UK response has been much smaller than Germany, Italy or Japan. About three-quarters of the UK plan is focused on subsidising cheap bank loans and tax holidays.
“Now, our mayor may think the bankers should be given a medal. Well, in fact the loan scheme is not being used much. Employers are saying the Job Retention Scheme is simply not flexible enough. Income protection is actually modest in itself and modest compared to other countries around the world.
“SO: the crucial point is this: we need to prepare NOW, a huge stimulus to demand to make sure that our economy flies – not limps out – of the Lockdown.”
Birmingham Labour Council Leader Ian Ward said: “I absolutely welcome Liam Byrne’s plan to kickstart Birmingham’s economy once the lockdown has ended.
“As Keir Starmer has said, the government has been slow going into lockdown, slow on testing and slow on getting protective equipment to key workers. We cannot afford it to be slow now on organising an economic recovery that protects jobs in Birmingham.
“We also need a recovery that addresses the production of carbon dioxide across our city and poor air quality that kills one person in Birmingham every seven hours. It is clear that Liam has that plan and that is why it is so important that we make him Mayor of the West Midlands next year.”
You can see Liam’s speech in full on his Facebook Page.