£50m furlough bill on the way to closed or seriously struggling businesses
New analysis by the Labour Party has revealed the £50m bill Ministers are forcing struggling businesses to pay in July, despite the serious impact upon them of ongoing restrictions. From 1 July, all businesses including in sectors hardest hit by restrictions will be forced to contribute 10% towards the cost of furloughing employees. Ministers have refused to push back this date in tandem with the delay to the roadmap – meaning businesses forced to pay will include those still legally closed or operating at a significantly reduced capacity.
In just a couple of weeks, employers will therefore face a choice between paying £122.80 on average per every employee whose job they want to protect, or removing staff from the payroll. That includes businesses still unable to open like night clubs and live music venues, as well as those facing huge financial difficulties in light of ongoing restrictions including travel agents and airlines, events spaces, pubs and bars, and businesses in the wedding industry.
On 1 July, Ministers will also begin withdrawing the 100% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. That means businesses will have to contribute 34% towards their monthly business rates irrespective of their trading status. The average night club will have to pay £718 in July, the average bar will have to pay £500, the average restaurant will have to pay £598, and the average theatre will have to pay £1,048.
Labour has called on the Government to:
- Delay the increased employer contribution to furlough, given that most of people remaining on furlough are employed in the sectors affected by the ongoing restrictions – hospitality, live events, accommodation and tourism.
- On business rates relief, learn lessons from the Labour-led Welsh government, which has given the vast majority of businesses 100% business rate relief for the course of this financial year. In contrast, the Conservative government is sending out bills to businesses that cannot fully open.
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said:
“Businesses have done right by our country during this crisis and the Government must do right by them. But Ministers have repeatedly failed to grasp the simple principle that public health restrictions must be matched by fair economic measures.
“A month’s delay may seem like a short time, but for businesses legally closed from trading or those hanging on by their fingertips from going under and relying on the summer season the delay is another blow. That businesses unable to reopen are being sent huge bills defies logic. Unless Ministers take action, we risk pushing more firms over the edge.”
Labour accuses government of ‘fraud’ over Trade and Agriculture Commission
The Government has been accused of “perpetuating a fraud on British farming communities” after it emerged that the new Trade and Agriculture Commission will not be asked to assess the impact of new trade deals on the UK farming industry, despite repeated commitments by Ministers that it would.
On 1st November last year, the Government officially announced the role of the new statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission as follows:
“It will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the Government signs after the end of the EU transition period on January 1. The move – part of the Government’s ambition to place farmers at the heart of its trade policy – will allow Parliamentarians access to independent and expert advice when reviewing the impact of each trade deal on farming.”
Subsequent statements by DEFRA Secretary George Eustice, Trade Secretary Liz Truss, and other ministers all asserted that the role of the TAC would be to give a voice to British farmers when new trade deals signed by the Government are being scrutinised.
But in a statement on the Department for International Trade’s website today, inviting expressions of interest from potential members of the Commission, Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said:
“The TAC’s role is specific and focused: it will look at the text of an FTA to see if the measures relating to trade in agricultural products have any implications for maintaining our domestic statutory protections – specifically those relating to animal and plant health, animal welfare and the environment – across the UK. The TAC will provide advice to me on this, which will be laid before Parliament.”
Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, said in response:
“Last Autumn, MPs had the chance to pass Labour’s amendments to the Trade and Agriculture Bills banning imports of agricultural products that did not meet the UK’s standards on food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection, and would undermine the competitiveness of British farmers.
“The Government persuaded their backbenchers not to back those amendments on the basis of a promise that the Trade and Agriculture Commission would do the job instead, and be given the authority to tell Parliament if any future trade deals would be damaging for British farmers.
“But now the truth is clear. The Government has misled its own MPs and perpetuated a fraud on Britain’s farming communities. A hugely damaging deal is about to be struck with Australia, and the Commission which was supposed to act as the voice of British farmers will have nothing at all to say.”
Further quotes from Ministers on the role of the TAC:
Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, November 1st: “By putting the TAC on a statutory footing, we are ensuring that the voices of our farmers, as well as those of consumers and key environmental and animal welfare groups, continue to be heard while we are in the process of scrutinising future trade deals.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, 1st November: “I am extending the TAC and putting it on a statutory footing to give farmers a stronger voice in British trade”.
Liz Truss, 6th November, to the NFU Conference in Wales: “We have no intention of ever striking a deal that doesn’t benefit farmers, but we have provided checks and balances in the form of the Trade and Agriculture Commission. That is an important reassurance as every deal is different.”.
Lord Gardiner, 9th November, debate on the Agriculture Bill: “The Government will keep working hard to support our farmers as we pursue new trade opportunities. Indeed, this is the core task of the Trade and Agriculture Commission that will be put on a statutory footing.”
Liz Truss, 25th November, to the House of Commons: “We will shortly be introducing an amendment to the Trade Bill, which will write the role of our vital Trade and Agriculture Commission into law, again giving independent advice to Parliament on trade and agriculture.”
Minister of State for Trade Policy, Greg Hands, 26th November: “The TAC will ensure that public and industry interests are protected in Britain’s agriculture trade policy.”
Lord Grimstone, 7th December, presenting the amendments to the Trade Bill putting the TAC on a statutory footing: ”I believe that these amendments will help the UK safeguard our current standards of agricultural products, put British farming at the heart of our trade policy and ensure that our agricultural sector is among the most competitive and innovative in the world.”
Liz Truss, 15th April, in response to Emily Thornberry’s question asking her when the TAC would be established and if there would be any reduction in tariffs on imports from Australia and New Zealand that do not meet UK standards: “Part of the Trade Bill was the establishment of the statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission. For every free trade agreement, it will produce a report on precisely the issues that the right hon. Lady outlines.”
Decade of Conservative neglect is driving teachers out of classrooms hampering children’s pandemic recovery
A decade of Conservative neglect is driving teachers out of classrooms, Labour analysis has revealed, as the Party warns this could harm children’s pandemic recovery.
Labour analysis of Government workforce data shows that newly qualified teachers are more likely to leave the profession in the most recent data, compared to 2011:
- After just a year in the job, teachers are 25% more likely to leave the profession;
- After three years, teachers are 17% more likely to have left the profession.
At the same time the number of teacher vacancies has almost tripled since 2011, with nearly 1,000 teaching posts currently unfilled. Teachers are also responsible for more pupils than they were a decade ago with higher pupil to teacher ratios meaning a secondary school of 1,000 pupils would have seven fewer teachers now than at the beginning of the decade.
Shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green MP, is warning this could slow children’s educational recovery from the pandemic with teachers having less time to focus on each child’s needs.
Over the last decade Conservative pay freezes have seen teachers’ salaries fall £4,000 in real terms. Rishi Sunak’s latest pay freeze will hit 94% of teachers even while they have completed thousands of additional hours to support schools through the Covid crisis.
Recent surveys from the National Association of Headteachers and the National Education Union show teachers have put in thousands of extra hours over the last year to manage track and trace within their school community while the Government’s replacement for exams creating an extra 12 hours of work a week, on average.
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“Teachers have experienced a decade of neglect under Conservative governments which is driving them out of classrooms.
“Ensuring every child can bounce back from the pandemic should be a top priority but the government has said nothing about the workforce that will deliver the additional support and enhanced offer children need.
“Our dedicated teachers and school leaders have worked incredibly hard to support children and families through the pandemic. We must now recognise their invaluable contribution if we are to deliver the promise of a bright future for every child.”
Labour demands full investigation from Prime Minister on luxury Downing Street flat refurbishment
Labour have written to the Prime Minister calling for a full investigation, after a statement from the government released quietly through a Parliamentary Question late on Friday failed to reveal the source of the original donor for the Downing Street flat refurbishment, but instead said the Prime Minister himself would be paying for the costs.
The original donor or donors of the refurbishment, reported to be worth up to £200,000, is still unknown, raising serious questions, the Party says, about who paid in the first place and whether there were any conflicts of interests given the recent sleaze scandal unfolding in government.
Labour have written to the Prime Minister demanding he makes it clear who originally paid for the refurbishment, why, when and how – as well as asking the Prime Minister to come clean about the allegations levelled at him by his former Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings that Johnson behaved unethically and possibly illegally in his management of the Downing Street flat refurbishment.
They have also underlined the increasing delay of the Register of Minister’s Interests and the lack of appointment of an Independent Adviser on Ministerial Standards.
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, wrote:
“The Ministerial Code clearly states ‘Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public’. This has not happened.
“Given we know it only takes a text message from a friend to get the full attention at the top of your government, many people will wonder what personal goodwill could be generated by a secret donation to the redecoration of your living quarters.
“Any external financial aid to a Prime Minister’s lifestyle must of course be fully declared at the time and as the Ministerial Code makes clear, real and perceived conflicts of interest must be avoided.
“I believe there needs to be a full investigation given the gravity of the new accusations from your former Chief Adviser and the serious implications of other irregularities of this concerning episode.”