Starmer tells government to “put families first during lockdown”

Sienna Rodgers

Keir Starmer is set to urge the government to “put families first during lockdown” by supporting parents and protecting household incomes as the finances of millions are hit by the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In his first speech of the year, which has “economic security” as its central theme, the UK Labour leader will frame his party’s arguments about social security, fair pay and more in terms of their effects on the family.

He will set out a new plan by Labour for protecting family incomes during the third national lockdown in England, which will include the following policies:

  1. Giving local government the money needed to prevent the 5% council tax increase that would cost the average Band D household an extra £91 a year.
  2. Stopping the planned cut in Universal Credit to put an extra £1,000 in the pockets of six million families.
  3. Giving key workers a pay rise, including teachers, armed forces personnel and care workers.
  4. Extending the ban on evictions and repossessions during lockdown.

Starmer is expected to say: “Family has always been incredibly important to me. It meant everything to my parents that I was able to get on to go into law and to lead a public service – the Crown Prosecution Service.

“It meant everything to me that the NHS was there to care for my mum when she desperately needed it and it means everything to me now that I have a loving family of my own.

“When I think of the economy, I think about how it affects families, people worried about paying the bills, covering childcare or coping with insecure work.”

On Labour’s policies to put families first, he will tell the public via the online address: “I know this isn’t everything that’s needed and that after so much suffering, we can’t go back the status quo.

“We cannot return to an economy where over half our care workers earn less than the living wage, where childcare is amongst the most expensive in Europe, where our social care system is a national disgrace and where over four million children grow up in poverty.

“But taking these steps now would make a real difference to millions of people across the country and it would put families at the heart of our recovery.”

Starmer used a Sunday Telegraph piece to call on the government to support local authorities and remove the need for 5% council tax increases this year, which Labour has described as a “regressive” way of raising funds.

Labour has repeatedly demanded that the government keep in place the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift, introduced amid the pandemic but due to end in April, and the opposition has criticised the public sector ‘freeze’.

Rishi Sunak announced in November that, apart from in the case of NHS workers, pay increases in the public sector would be paused, which amounts to a real-terms pay cut for many who have worked on the frontline during the crisis.

The government revealed last week that the ban on bailiff evictions will be extended until “at least” February 21st due to the fresh lockdown – but this is not the same ban as the one introduced for the first lockdown.

Under the rules that have been in place since the original ban ended in September, eviction orders can still be granted and court proceedings continue, but bailiffs are asked not to enforce possession orders.

On Monday morning, Starmer will accuse the government of having “the wrong priorities for Britain”, saying: “This is the government that gave Dominic Cummings a £40,000 pay rise but won’t pay our carers a decent wage.

“This is the government that wasted £22bn of taxpayers’ money on a testing system that doesn’t work but now won’t find the money to support families.

“And this is the government that sprayed money on private contracts that didn’t deliver but won’t give councils the support they need. That’s why I’m calling on the government today to put families first during this lockdown.”

Starmer is set to conclude: “There will be hard months ahead, but the seasons will turn. A dark winter will give way to a brighter spring and when it does, I know that together we can build a better future.

“We can build a country worthy of the sacrifices of the British people. Just as we did in 1945 when Attlee’s government built the welfare state from the rubble of war.

“We can restore pride and prosperity in every village, every town, every city and every part of our United Kingdom.

“We can secure our economy, protect our NHS and rebuild our country so that Britain is the best country to grow up in and the best country to grow old in.”

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