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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today welcomed commitments set out by the Bank of England and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget to tackle the spread of coronavirus and its economic consequences.
However, he warned that the UK economy is poorly placed to deal with the expected economic shock after a decade of austerity, and said that even more assistance is needed to support the capital’s lowest-paid workers – particularly those employed in the gig economy.
The Budget announcements came as Sadiq met with Professor Chris Whitty, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, to discuss preparations for a rising number of cases in the capital and around the country, and planning for the next stage of the Government’s response. Sadiq also separately met business leaders on the London Enterprise Partnership.
The CMO advised the Mayor that the UK’s leading health experts are monitoring the situation by the hour and have a range of plans in place for if and when the outbreak worsens in London.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, today announced extra spending measures to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak and to support companies and households through the worst of the outbreak.
This included a £5 billion emergency response fund for the NHS, and £7 billion set aside for a variety of measures to support workers and businesses affected by coronavirus. However, the Mayor warned that further measures were needed to support the lowest-paid workers – and raised specific concerns about the support available to workers in the gig economy who could be particularly badly affected.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“I fully understand that many Londoners are worried about what coronavirus means for them and their families. I was reassured to meet with the Government’s Chief Medical Officer today and hear directly about the plans to deal with Coronavirus in London as we move into the next stage.
“I’m pleased to see that the Bank of England and Government are taking the potential economic impact of coronavirus seriously. However, the UK economy is particularly poorly placed to weather this storm after a decade of austerity-driven cuts to our public services.
“I remain concerned about the potential impact of coronavirus on the lowest-income Londoners – including those working in the gig economy. The Government may yet need to take urgent further action to ensure any impact is fully mitigated.”
In the meantime, the Mayor continues to do all he can to ensure the city is best prepared to cope with coronavirus.
He is regularly convening a Mayor’s Advisory Group of senior officials from Public Health England, the NHS, the Met Police, London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service, Transport for London and representatives from London’s local authorities to make sure London is prepared for an increase of cases. He is also in constant contact with Public Health England.
Yesterday, Transport for London announced that it is implementing an enhanced cleaning regime to improve the already-high hygiene levels on the capital’s public transport.
In other budget measures, while the Mayor welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of a new £1bn Building Safety Fund, in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell fire, he does not believe that the amount of funding available is sufficient.
He said: “While this is welcome as far it goes, £1billion is simply not enough. Once again, this shows that the Government has failed to appreciate the scale of the crisis surrounding unsafe tower blocks.”
The average London social sector building with Aluminium Composite Material cladding costs more than £3 million to replace, so £1 billion is only sufficient for approximately 300 buildings.
The Mayor told the Government urgently to provide more detail on a range of other measures – including a gas tax on businesses from 2022, a new road fund, a tree-planting programme, plans to get more new affordable homes built, measures aimed at tackling rough-sleeping and a boost to infrastructure spending – so that their impact on London could be fully understood.
He added: “We will be studying closely the various other initiatives the Chancellor has unveiled to check whether the pattern of London being excluded from the Government’s new programmes is continuing.”