Keir Starmer has warned the government today of a growing jobs crisis faced by tourist towns across the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic that has seen the domestic tourism sector hit hard.
Ahead of a visit to Cornwall’s seaside town Falmouth, where he will meet local businesses, the Labour leader has praised the UK’s tourist destinations but said such towns are “falling through the cracks”.
The main opposition party is urging the government to introduce more targeted and more flexible support to protect jobs in the worst-affected areas of the economy and in communities reliant on tourism.
Labour wants the Prime Minister and Chancellor to drop the “one-size-fits-all” approach and change course on the furlough scheme, which is ending across all sectors in October after being extended.
On the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on UK tourist hotspots, Starmer said: “We are lucky to have many world-class tourist destinations across the UK. But the jobs crisis facing tourist towns is stark.
“There are fantastic domestic options for British holidaymakers, but the crucial summer season has been cut short. With many businesses still unable to reopen fully, the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to jobs risks these towns falling through the cracks.”
The Labour leader added: “We need a targeted extension of the furlough scheme for the hardest-hit sectors and proper support in place to help those who are unemployed back into work.
“People are worried about their job prospects. The Labour Party is focused on fighting for every job and every part of the country.”
Starmer’s party has also proposed a new £1.7bn fightback fund to protect the hospitality industry and high streets, which would aim to help help pubs, bars, hotels and other businesses unable to trade as normal.
The partially and fully shut down sectors could risk the loss of one million jobs, Labour cautioned earlier this month. The proposed new fund would give councils more flexibility over support for their local economy.
Shadow frontbench minister Lucy Powell has said that the employer contribution aspect of the furlough scheme, which kicks in next month, will be a “step too far” for many businesses still struggling.
According to new Labour analysis of Office for National Statistics data, areas with more workers in tourism-related industries have seen larger increases on average in the claimant count of unemployment.
In Falmouth, 24% of workers are in tourism-related jobs and the claimant count among working-age adults has risen by 140% since the start of the pandemic, compared to 110% for the UK as a whole.
Centre for Towns research into the impact of Covid-19 on English and Welsh towns found that those reliant on tourism are particularly exposed as accommodation, pubs, restaurants, art and leisure depend on the tourist trade.