Chairs Blog - February 2021
Now that the Prime Minister's timeline for reopening the UK economy has been published, all eyes will be turning to next week's Budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak faces the unenviable task of tracking the PM's lockdown
exit plan while not creating a cliff-edge when it comes to withdrawing support
schemes like furlough.
The PM told MPs in the Commons on Monday that he will not 'pull the rug out' from under businesses and the economy, and would continue to do 'whatever it takes' to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK.
That means we can expect to see support measures being extended beyond the June
21 target to fully reopen the country, with some suggestions that furlough and
other measures continue into the summer as businesses get back on their feet.
This will be especially important to the hospitality industry which will be
losing its second Easter in a row.
The Bank of England has predicted that the economy could bounce back like a
'coiled spring' once restrictions are lifted, buoyed by an estimated £125
billion that households have built up in savings in the last year.
But this is cold comfort to people who have lost their jobs or seen incomes
decimated. The UK's jobless rate increased to 5.1% in the three months to
December, the highest for almost five years.
The Office of National Statistics said 726,000 fewer people were in payrolled
employment than before the start of the pandemic, with the under-25s bearing
the brunt and accounting for almost 60% of that fall. And with six million
people still on furlough, unemployment could rise sharply to 7.8% later this
year, according to some forecasts.
No-one envies the Chancellor's position, trying to balance the short-termism of
the Covid-19 response, while plotting a longer-term path to economic recovery.
But it's time he got serious about creating new jobs, not just protecting
existing ones. We want to see an investment-led recovery where the Government's
pledge to 'level up' the UK's uneven economy comes through actions and not
Next week's Budget is an opportunity to do just that. We want to see a
commitment to a multi-year regional settlement through the Government's new
Shared Prosperity Fund, allied to devolved powers so we can shape our own
We know what needs to be done in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to create
opportunity by growing new areas of our economy and tackling disadvantaged
We have decades of experience of local decision making and how it can work
effectively in a rural area.
We have businesses ready to invest and a pipeline of projects valued at
hundreds of millions of pounds. But they want the certainty that a longer term
settlement would bring, instead of having to bid for ad hoc lumps of money.
We have our roadmap to recovery. Now we need Government to commit.