The Prime Minister came to Coventry last week and rambled on about levelling up but failed to announce funding for a Gigafactory, the one thing that could save the West Midlands car industry.
Despite our successes, the spectre of unemployment continues to haunt Birmingham and the wider region.
There are too many low paid, insecure jobs, stubborn areas of unemployment and people reliant on Universal Credit (UC). It makes it hard to understand how the PM thinks cutting welfare by £20 is levelling up.There’s always been a tendency for the Tory Party to portray people on welfare as work shy. The fact that 40% of those currently on UC are in work, but don’t earn enough, is inconvenient but this PM’s not big on detail.
In April 2020 UC was increased by £20 because increasing numbers forced to claim it simply couldn’t make ends meet. Ministers intended to reduce it again the following March but, at the height of the pandemic, they came under huge pressure and the Chancellor was forced to leave well alone. However, the Works and Pensions Secretary has recently confirmed her plans to reduce UC by £1,040 per year and reintroduce the Minimum Income Floor which hits the self employed on low incomes.
In terms of levelling up, this will mean unemployment support falling to its lowest level, in real terms, in 30 years at the very time economists expect unemployment to rise. The Government says it will save £5 billion but experts warn that it will plunge half a million people, including 200,000 children, into poverty.
£5 billion is a lot of money but nothing compared to £37 billion squandered on a Test and Trace system that doesn’t work or £18 billion spent on emergency contracts which included money for useless PPE items and other failed products or contracts for friends and associates of Tory ministers.
This Prime Minister can find money for anything he wants, from his Downing Street flat to a new Royal Yacht, which the Navy doesn’t want. Yet suddenly, he gets all prudent when it comes to hard working but poorly paid people.