Hounslow expecting a leap in unemployment as furlough ends

Image above: Workforce graphic by Elf-Moondance / Pixabay

Hounslow Council is expecting a big leap in unemployment as the Government’s furlough scheme comes to an end.

The scheme, which was brought in by the Government to help businesses and workers cope with the pandemic, finished on 30 September. Companies now have to pay the full cost of their workforce as they did pre-Covid and it is expected that many employers who have taken advantage of the scheme over the last year will now make staff redundant.

The economy has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. According to the latest House of Commons Library report on the Economic Impact of Coronavirus, GDP is still at 2% less than it was pre-Covid.

‘After recovering strongly as the economy reopened, economic growth appears to have slowed over the course of summer of 2021. Inflation has risen over 2021, partly a result of the supply problems, and is expected to continue to do so heading into 2022… There is therefore a great deal of uncertainty over the economic outlook and how strong and sustained the recovery will be, even assuming there won’t be a resurgence of the virus that materially impacts the economy’.

LB Hounslow is one of five councils in the country with the highest proportion of jobs that at the end of September were still on furlough. Leader of Hounslow Council Councillor Steve Curran said:

LB Hounslow Leader Steve Curran

“As one of the hardest hit councils in the country in terms of economy, unemployment and furlough, it’s a very real concern that – as the furlough scheme ends – the Government has failed to put in place proper measures to support the people of Hounslow, especially those employed in the aviation sector.

“There have to be serious concerns that, as the Government has failed to engage with our call for an Aviation Communities Fund to address the skills and employment challenges in Hounslow, the cruel impacts of the pandemic on our economy and for working people in the Borough will only worsen in the weeks to come.”

Campaign for a targeted Aviation Communities Fund

An independent report by Oxford Economics commissioned by the council in 2020 forecast a hit of almost £1 billion to the borough’s economy due the downturn at Heathrow. The report estimated that more than 40,000 jobs could be at risk.

Cllr Curran said then that Hounslow was facing “incredibly tough times” ahead, “the biggest challenge of our generation”.

READ ALSO: Hounslow recovery plan

Both the Council and local MPs have been campaigning for a targeted Aviation Communities Fund to help minimise job losses, support training to help people into new roles.

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth

MP for Brentford & Isleworth Ruth Cadbury raised her concern about what would happen when the furlough ended, when she spoke in Parliament in July.

“We’ve been waiting for over a year for the Government to provide the promised support for aviation communities such as Hounslow. However Ministers continue to sit on their hands while many people locally worry about how they will pay the bills” she said.

At the end of September LB Hounslow had 10% its workforce still on furlough – double the national average. That’s 13,000 people, down from a peak of 51,700 in June last year.

As furlough comes to an end, the Government is also ending the extra £20 payments to people in receipt of Universal Credit. Since the start of the pandemic the Council says the number of Hounslow residents on Universal Credit has almost doubled and this sudden drop in income for many will have a knock-on impact on the local economy as spending falls, compounding the pressures residents face.

Hounslow’s Community Solutions programme

LB Hounslow offers job support through its Community Solutions programme, bringing together different agencies and organisations to help residents access what help is available.

Advisors offer expert advice, ‘fast referrals, help with debt and money management, to guide residents through the Universal Credit application process, and support residents to access skills programmes to improve career and employment prospects. Drop-in sessions are being held in accessible, established community locations where residents have already been accessing services such as foodbanks’.

Community Solutions, Hounslow

“We are very worried for our communities” – Citizens Advice Bureau

One of the main agencies people turn to for advice is Citizens Advice. Chief Executive Officer Citizens Advice Hounslow, Aiman Elal, said:

“We have already seen a rapid rise in people seeking advice and support on financial issues, mental health, employment, housing services, and the full range of pressures that fall out of economic uncertainty.

“This promises to get worse, potentially much worse, if the impacts of the end of the furlough scheme for communities reliant on a thriving Heathrow Airport, drops in benefits, and rising costs come together ahead of Christmas. We are very worried for our communities.”

Citizens Advice, Hounslow

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