Council Leader's furlough fears

The Leader of Hounslow Council Councillor Steve Curran has expressed his serious concerns about the ending of the Government's furlough scheme, which takes effect from today (1st October).

Published: Friday, 1st October 2021

Leader of the Council, Councillor Steve Curran

Councillor Curran said: "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. 

"As a Council we will continue to provide what support we can through our Community Solutions work, and we will - as we have throughout the pandemic - make assisting the most vulnerable our priority in partnerships across the Borough. But 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."

The latest available data shows Hounslow is one of the five councils in the country with the highest proportions of jobs still on furlough, at 10% the rate was double the UK average – 13,000 residents on furlough, down from a peak of 51,700 in June last year. With the end of the scheme some jobs will likely be lost as the labour market readjusts and unemployment will rise.

At the same time, residents will face the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since World War II. The temporary £20 increase to Universal Credit, first introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, is due to officially end next week - just a few days after the furlough scheme comes to an end. Since the start of the pandemic the number of Hounslow residents on Universal Credit has almost doubled and analysis suggests Hounslow residents will lose out on over £780,000 per week with the end of the £20 uplift. 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.

Through the pandemic the Council has been working to combat job losses, supporting residents to secure good work and businesses to pivot and grow, to adapt their business models and retain employment in the Borough.

Hounslow Council will continue to carefully monitor furlough figures and Universal Credit claimant numbers to target help and support at those most in need.

Community Solutions is offering support to residents on the phone and face-to-face. The Council is bringing together different agencies and organisations to ensure residents can access the help they need when and where they need it. 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.

The Council will keep supporting those who need it and deliver our recovery ambitions, without losing sight of those who face real barriers during the rebuilding.

Hounslow Council will also continue to call on the Government to recognise the devastating plight of aviation communities, in Hounslow, West London and across the UK, and for a place-based approach with targeted investment in training, reskilling, low carbon jobs and local infrastructure which would support wider recovery enabling Britain to build back better and greener.

Joining the Council’s call for urgent action, Aiman Elal, Chief Executive Officer, Citizens Advice, Hounslow, 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.”

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