John at High Street Chippy in Wath before the pandemic

New analysis shows the high street is still under strain in Yorkshire as 711,700 furloughed workers start losing support in a matter of hours.

Analysis released today by the Labour Party shows:

  • Footfall for key high street businesses is still down 40% on pre-pandemic levels in the UK
  • 43.7% of businesses in the hardest hit sector still report being temporarily closed
  • 711,700 furloughed workers in Yorkshire begin losing support in a matter of hours

It also shows many businesses in South Yorkshire still face significant challenges due to coronavirus.

Google mobility data shows that footfall for retail and recreation businesses, including restaurants, cafes, museums and cinemas, is down 40% in South Yorkshire compared to pre-pandemic levels. Footfall on public transport and around workplaces is still down 32% and 13% respectively.

Meanwhile, the latest ONS data shows some firms have still not reopened, whilst a large number of those that have report lower turnover.

A fifth of businesses in the food and accommodation sector have still not been able to reopen, including nearly 30% of SMEs. 43% of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector are also still temporarily closed, including nearly half of SMEs.

Meanwhile, of those that have opened, 84% in food and accommodation and 72% in arts and entertainment report reduced turnover from pre-pandemic levels.

In under 24 hours, these firms begin losing support from the Job Retention Scheme and will have to start meeting some of the cost of non-working hours for any retained employees (either fully or partially furloughed).

This change risks handing furloughed workers in Yorkshire and the Humber a P45;

  • 711,700 people have been furloughed, equivalent to 30% of the workforce
  • 115,500 workers in the food and accommodation sector, equivalent to 74% of the workforce
  • 31,700 workers in arts, entertainment and recreation, equivalent to 67% of the workforce

Labour is calling on the government to reverse course and extend the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries.

We will:

  1. Fight for jobs: by reforming the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries.
  2. Back our businesses: by setting up a £1.7 billion fightback fund to prevent firms going under and save our high streets.
  3. Leave no-one behind: by providing additional support to areas forced into local lockdowns, supporting the self-employed and helping those left out of existing schemes.
  4. Keep workers safe: by protecting workers’ rights, boosting sick pay, making workplaces safe and giving our NHS and care services the resources to avoid a second wave.
  5. Drive job creation: by investing in infrastructure, accelerating progress towards a zero-carbon economy and increasing access to skills and training opportunities.

This would put the UK in line with other major developed democracies, with many extending their versions of the Job Retention Scheme or similar wage subsidy schemes.