Labour calls for £1.7bn fightback fund to protect hospitality and high streets

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Momentum is now chaired by a climate activist living in New York and a firefighter working for the Fire Brigades Union. Replacing Jon Lansman with Gaya Sriskanthan and Andrew Scattergood serves to highlight a number of aims and values for the organisation’s new leadership: diversity, links with the wider labour movement, an emphasis on the Green New Deal policy proposals and a renewed focus on international work. Of course, what everyone wants to know is how they will handle Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) elections. The hope for the party’s left is that the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance meeting tomorrow goes smoothly and a single slate is formed.

In news from Labour itself, the party is calling today for a new £1.7bn fightback fund to protect the hospitality industry and high streets amid the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. On the theme of “jobs, jobs, jobs”, the shadow business team has identified those most at risk of going under: beauty salons, nail bars and gyms, which remain closed; pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants, which are allowed to open but cannot trade as normal due to distancing guidelines still in place. These partially and fully shut down sectors could risk the loss of one million jobs, Labour says. The proposed new fund would give councils more flexibility over support for their local economy.

This fightback fund idea follows the demand by Labour that the government adapts the furlough scheme being wound down by the Chancellor amid many thousands of job cuts. Anneliese Dodds used the Sunday shows media round to reiterate her message that the “one-size-fits-all” approach should be dropped in favour of sector-specific support. Shadow minister Lucy Powell has warned that the employer contribution aspect of the scheme, which kicks in next month, will be a “step too far” for many businesses. The whole job retention programme is due to end in October, but – as we heard DCMS Secretary Oliver Dowden this morning – many areas of the economy, such as theatres, are not expected to be up and running by the end of the year.

Labour has been attempting throughout this crisis to avoid getting trapped, either by promoting impractical ideas or by being overly critical of the government. But the party could also be trapped if it underestimates the scale of this crisis. The furlough scheme being extended to October, for example, was warmly welcomed by the labour movement. And it was indeed a great victory for trade unions that thoroughly deserved celebration. But that move now looks seriously lacking in ambition: the depth and length of the crisis was not appreciated in that moment. Repeating similar miscalculations must be avoided. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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