Herts could see 100,000 Covid-19 job losses, councillors are warned

PUBLISHED: 16:45 12 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:54 12 November 2020

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Stevenage has risen by more than 150 per cent since March, said Adam Wood from the Herts LEP. Picture: Energepic.com / Pexels.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Stevenage has risen by more than 150 per cent since March, said Adam Wood from the Herts LEP. Picture: Energepic.com / Pexels.

Energepic.com / Pexels.

Covid-19 could cause up to 100,000 job losses across Hertfordshire, councillors were told this week.

A Stevenage Council meeting was told that total job losses in Herts, due to Covid-19, were expected to be between 80,000 and 100,000. Picture: Danny Loo.A Stevenage Council meeting was told that total job losses in Herts, due to Covid-19, were expected to be between 80,000 and 100,000. Picture: Danny Loo.

A business expert revealed the projection as he appeared before a Stevenage Council scrutiny committee on Tuesday.

Adam Wood, from the Herts Local Enterprise Partnership, said unemployment in Herts had increased by 170 per cent since March. In Stevenage, it had risen by 151pc.

He told the committee: “We think – and these figures are still moving at the moment, as you would expect – that the total loss of jobs will be somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 jobs in 2020 in Herts. It may be more. If we are lucky, it may be a bit less than that.”

The committee heard there had been 3,655 redundancies in Hertfordshire between June and September.

Labour councillor Sandra Barr called the figures “frightening”.

Mr Wood said: “The announcement that there may be a vaccine available from around Christmas may help to persuade some companies to keep going, rather than making people redundant. But we simply don’t know at the moment.”

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Documents released last week revealed that in August, the council surveyed 145 Stevenage businesses, from micro-businesses to large companies.

More than one in ten said they were in “crisis” due to Covid-19.

Over 20 had already made a combined 53 employees redundant, with 16 saying more redundancies had been identified.

There had also been a loss of 134 freelance roles and 85 agency jobs.

A third of companies currently running with fewer staff said they would not return to their prior staffing levels.

Mr Wood told the meeting: “I can’t emphasise this strongly enough – Hertfordshire is still in a good place in the long-term, in terms of economic growth, partly because of its relationship and proximity to London... But we do also need short-term action in terms of addressing the anticipated number of jobs lost.”

The Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee commissioned an investigation on Tuesday into the full financial impact of Covid-19 in Stevenage and how the council can help mitigate the damage.

Labour councillor Michael Downing, who chaired the meeting, said the investigation would be finished by spring.


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