Alongside fellow key members of the Shadow Cabinet’s economic team Rachel Reeves and Ed Miliband, it was great to catch up with the senior leader of the UK’s big five business organisations, the Federation of Small Businesses, British Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directions, Confederation of British Industry and Make UK. We had wide ranging discussions which included the situation with unemployment, jobs and the labour market; commercial rents; and the progress at the G7 on a global minimum corporation tax rate. These meetings are important for Labour to understand core economic concerns and to work closely together to hold the Government to account on key decisions. I find them really interesting and I enjoy contributing a great deal.
I also had a productive meeting with the Joseph Roundtree Foundation about keeping up the pressure against the Universal Credit cut, now planned for September. I will be working hard on this in the coming weeks.
I was also delighted to sign up as a Disability Confident Employer, an issue very close to my heart.
With my child poverty hat on, and as a parent, I’ve also been very concerned about the lack of investment in children’s recovery from the pandemic. Indeed, the long-term impact on the education and attainment of young people is the thing that worries me the most coming out of Covid. This is not to minimise the health and economic impacts that have been felt; but when I look at my own children, I can see what they have lost. Compensating for this should be an absolute national priority. In order to do this the Government appointed a respected educationalist, Sir Kevan Collins, to draw up a plan. He did so but has now resigned due to the Government failing to back him, saying: ‘A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils’. He is right. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the international breakdown of COVID ‘catch-up’ funding per pupil is as follows:
US – £1,600;
Netherlands – £2,500;
UK – £50.
The Government are already saying they can’t afford to do better. They’re wrong. Aside from the sheer scale of money they have wasted, failing to invest in catching up would be the greatest false economy of all and result in lower economic growth later. Growth is the only way to make our national finances sustainable.
Everyone – whatever your own politics and regardless of whether you have children yourself – should oppose this. The Government is making a serious and profound national mistake, and one that will have consequences for decades to come. If you’re interested in what an alternative might look like, you can read Labour’s plan here.
Sadly however, this week the Government abstained on Labour’s opposition day motion on investing in children and young people. This is highly disappointing and telling. The Conservative tuppeny plan delivers nothing for wellbeing, nothing for mental health and nothing for the children who’ve struggled most to learn from home. The Government are letting down children and young people and refusing to engage with Labour’s bold proposals that would help every child to achieve their potential.