After many months of pushing from my party, trade unions and business associations, last Wednesday the Chancellor announced a new Job Support Scheme which he says will help to help keep people in work.
I welcomed some elements of the plan, as I have called no less than 40 times for targeted wage support to be provided, in line with developments in other countries.
However, I have serious concerns about the effectiveness of the Conservatives’ scheme.
I am uncertain that this new scheme will provide employers with the incentives they need to keep workers on payroll.
Indeed, it comes too late for many larger businesses as the deadline for redundancy consultations before the end of the furlough scheme passed two weeks ago – a week before the Chancellor made his last-minute statement.
I am also unsure that it will actually encourage short hours working.
For it to work, employers need to make it more attractive to employers to retain more staff, on reduced hours, than to retain some full-time and make others redundant.
I remain unconvinced that this scheme will be able to do that, especially in hard hit industries like hospitality.
Over the last five months my office has been inundated with emails from those in Oxford who are ineligible for the government’s existing schemes.
I therefore worry that this new scheme does not provide targeted support for the self-employed who face being excluded from government support despite many still having a much-depleted flow of work.
Indeed, while there is some continued support for self-employed people across the country, the value of this drops precipitously and those missed from previous schemes are also not covered by this limited extension.
A more targeted continuation could and should have been provided for those in our society who have been most hard hit by this ongoing crisis.
The Chancellor’s speech also lacked any real mention of skills and re-training.
While there is a £3 billion National Skills Strategy in place, there is little evidence it is being delivered on the ground.
If we are to meet the challenges and jobs of the future, then it is essential that our workforce is trained to meet them.
Over the last couple of days, the Prime Minister announced some new provision, but unfortunately the vast majority of this training support will not be in place until April of next year.
Finally- it is crucial that these schemes deliver value for public money.
With previous government support schemes, reports of abuses have emerged.
The government must ensure that your hard-earned money is going towards keeping people in work at this time, not being wasted or used ineffectively.
I worry that these various limitations will force businessowners to make very difficult decisions about making staff members redundant when many of these job losses would otherwise have been avoidable.
I am concerned that as a result of this we risk a period of high unemployment not seen since the 1980s.
I would encourage anyone facing difficulties to contact my office so we can do all we can to help, both in practical terms and by raising problems in Parliament.