Sadiq Khan’s second term “mantra” would be “jobs, jobs, jobs,” he told London Assembly Members yesterday at his final Mayor’s Question Time ahead of the City Hall elections on 6 May.
The pandemic has already seen 300,000 Londoners lose their jobs, with more Universal Credit claimants in the capital than anywhere else in the country and a significant risk of unemployment rising when the government’s furlough scheme ends in September, the Mayor said.
With unemployment at seven per cent, compared to the UK-wide figure of five per cent, workers currently protected by the furlough scheme are concentrated in the most deprived areas of the city and those with most black and minority ethnic residents, he added – risking a “lost generation” of Londoners.
“We need to keep people in work, retrain people, help unemployed people back into work,” he said. “We can’t afford to see millions of Londoners unemployed.”
Quizzed by Labour AM Leonie Cooper, Khan welcomed “short-term” measures in the recent Budget, but accused the Chancellor of failing to address longer-term “build back better” objectives or provide the support the capital needs.
“London produces a quarter of the country’s economic output. We need London to do well if the country is to recover from this crisis,” he said. “It’s in nobody’s interests to play party politics with the recovery.”
But the criteria used by the government to decide priority lists of local authorities for the £4.8 billion “levelling up” fund announced alongside the Budget were “partisan”, he added. Barking & Dagenham and Newham are the only London boroughs included as high priority.
“I fully support levelling up across the country but that can’t mean making London poorer. That will make all of us poorer,” Khan said. “But the Chancellor seems to think that communities in deprived London boroughs like Tower Hamlets are less deserving of investment than those in his own leafy constituency of Richmondshire in North Yorkshire.”
The Mayor pledged to continue lobbying for higher benefits and sick pay, plus a job guarantee scheme to replace furlough, and highlighted his “bumper package” of recovery measures, unveiled at City Hall’s “Road to Recovery” summit earlier this week, where he had called for a “1945″-style effort to “shape a more equal society”.
The package included almost £500 million of investment by utility companies in the capital for job creation, plus almost £40 million of extra skills funding and some £10 million for high street, neighbourhood and community projects.
The summit also saw the unveiling of a new “anchor institutions” group – major organisations including NHS London, Transport for London, the University of London, the TUC, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry and leading faith groups, between them employing more than 490,000 people and spending more than £73 billion a year in London – pledging to provide job opportunities and support for Londoners most affected by the pandemic.
Khan also highlighted his Talk London consultation website, with some 60,000 Londoners signed up, and a new “Reimagine London” campaign seeking ideas for neighbourhood improvements.
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