“We run the risk of many more people being forced into poverty”
County Cllr Julie Gibson, Lancashire County Labour Group Shadow Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, has reacted with concern to the announcement of a rise in UK unemployment and called on the Government to work with partners to mitigate the worst effects. Figs for April 2020 released by the Office for National Statistics, show that the unemployment rate stood at 3.9% while the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the UK increased to reach almost 2.1 million; the highest since records began.
Cllr Gibson said: “While we can see what is happening nationally, the figures locally are also worrying. The claimant count in West Lancashire has traditionally levelled out between 1.3 – 3.7 % the latter figure dating back to January 2013. But as of April 2020 the claimant count figure for West Lancashire stands at 4.9%, – 2,950 claimants. In the previous month of March 2020 it was 2.7%. – 1,630 claimants. (Figs from www.nomisweb.co.uk claimant count West Lancashire April 2020). In just one month we have seen an increase in over 1,000 claimants in West Lancashire.”
Cllr Gibson said: “Sadly, unemployment is expected to steadily increase in the coming months with the winding down of emergency support from August (the “furloughed” scheme) which has provided a lifeline for many workers, many more will be forced to rely on support from the welfare benefits system.”
Cllr Gibson backed calls from trade unions and partners in the advice sector to end the five-week wait period for Universal Credit by replacing it with emergency grants so claimants don’t build up debts waiting for payment. She added: “The five-week wait period is particularly harsh and I have supported calls from those in the advice sector who have been campaigning to scrap this.”
“But now is surely the time for it to be reviewed so that we can ensure people do not fall further into poverty at a time when we could be facing a major recession.”