Keir Starmer demands more help for tourist towns after unemployment surge

Sir Keir Starmer has called for more help for Britain’s tourist towns to recover from coronavirus after new analysis showed sharp rises in unemployment in areas dependent on the sector for jobs.

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Andrew Woodcock Political Editor 

Labour’s analysis of official statistics showed that areas with a fifth or more workers in tourism-related jobs saw unemployment soar by 174 per cent since February, compared with just under 110 per cent for the UK as a whole.

Ahead of a visit to Falmouth in Cornwall to meet local businesses, Starmer warned that tourist towns risk “falling through the cracks” as chancellor Rishi Sunak begins to wind down his furlough scheme from Saturday.

The Labour leader called for an extension of the job retention scheme — which provides up to £2,500 a month in furlough pay for staff who would otherwise be laid off — for the sectors worst hit by Covid-19, including tourism and hospitality.

And he urged ministers to ensure that support measures such as work coaches are made available to help people back into work in badly affected areas.

With tourism directly supporting 1.6 million jobs and contributing almost £60bn to the economy in 2017, according to official figures, Sir Keir said the UK must respond to a “growing unemployment crisis” in areas like Falmouth, where 24 per cent of workers are in tourism related jobs and the claimant count has risen by 140 per cent.

“We are lucky to have many world-class tourist destinations across the UK,” said Sir Keir. “But the jobs crisis facing tourist towns is stark.

“There are fantastic domestic options for British holidaymakers, but the crucial summer season has been cut short. With many businesses still unable to reopen fully, the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to jobs risks these towns falling through the cracks.

“We need a targeted extension of the furlough scheme for the hardest-hit sectors and proper support in place to help those who are unemployed back into work.

“People are worried about their job prospects. The Labour Party is focused on fighting for every job and every part of the country.”

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Labour has been critical of Mr Sunak’s decision, announced in June, that the job retention scheme will be withdrawn at the same rate from all sectors of the economy, with employees required to pay national insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff from 1 August and the 80 per cent state support for wages reduced to 70 per cent in September and 60 per cent in October before the scheme ends on 1 November.

There have been warnings that the “one-size-fits-all” scale-back could trigger a wave of redundancies over the summer and autumn, as businesses are required to pay an increasing proportion of staff wages while unable to fully reopen.

Labour is calling for a more flexible rollback, with furlough support maintained longer in sectors which need it most.

And Starmer also called for a £1.7bn hospitality and high streets fightback fund to help pubs, bars, hotels and other businesses unable to return to full trade because of social distancing guidelines.