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A better recovery for the West Midlands

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date

Urgent action is needed to rebuild our economy after coronavirus.

The lockdown of the economy has already caused a sharp rise in numbers claiming work-related benefits, including unemployment benefit. While the official unemployment rate has so far held steady, over a quarter of all workers have been furloughed. These jobs will become vulnerable as the Job Retention Scheme ends in October. As temporary support measures are wound down, a major economic stimulus will be needed if we are to avoid mass unemployment.

The scale of action needed is also an opportunity to address long-running problems in the British economy, including the long-run decline of our industrial base, which has contributed to regional inequalities and the growth of insecure and low paid jobs, while stepping up action to decarbonise our economy and better preparing our public services to deal with future challenges.

The TUC has set out the measures needed nationally to rebuild our economy:

  • Decent work and a new way of doing business, including a £10 an hour minimum wage, a ban on zero-hours contracts, boosting collective bargaining, giving workers a voice at the heart of government by establishing a National Recovery Council.
  • Building a sustainable industrial base and a green economy, including establishing a recovery programme to deliver over a million new jobs and an ambitious job guarantee scheme to decarbonise the economy, funding a right to retrain, requirements for government investment programmes to rebuild UK manufacturing supply chains, and ensuring every government investment project comes with a plan for decent jobs.
  • Equality at work, including a day one right to flexible working for all, greater protections for pregnant women and new mums, better resourcing of Access to Work, compliance with the public sector equality duty.
  • Rebuilding public services, including a pay rise for all public sector workers, sustainable funding and a proper workforce strategy for social care, a funding settlement for the NHS, local government, education and other public services, and an end to outsourcing.
  • A real safety net, including reforming universal credit so it better supports working people, removing benefits conditionality, increasing the rate of statutory sick pay and maintaining the state pension triple lock.

We want to see regional and devolved nation recovery panels, mirroring a National Recovery Council for the UK, representing unions, employers, Jobcentre Plus, relevant civic partners and local and regional governments, to feed into the planning and delivery of recovery strategies at local and devolved nation level.

These regional and devolved nation structures are essential because there are wide variations across the country in terms of both the nature and scale of the challenges faced and the institutional arrangements and capacities for addressing these challenges. In these circumstances, a one size fits all solution will not work. Instead, we need to turn headline objectives into tailored strategies for each region.

Furthermore, different parts of the country will not be equally hit. The economy is already highly regionally imbalanced and uneven impact of lockdown on different sectors, combined with their uneven regional spread, means there is a danger of compounding regional inequalities. 9 per cent of the West Midlands’ employment is in at risk occupations, rising to 25 per cent for workers age 25 and under. Indeed, KPMG have reported that the West Midlands is likely to be the most affected region with economic activity anticipated to slump by 10.1 per cent given the hundreds of factories connected to the automotive sector.

We hope to see action on these measures in the chancellor’s summer fiscal event, but there is much that the West Midlands can do within existing structures.

As well as calling on the chancellor to provide support for the West Midlands as part of a national recovery plan, this report sets out a recovery plan for the region that the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and LEPs can start putting into action right away.

Download full report (pdf)

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