Covid-19 has biggest impact on Newham workers

Royal Docks

Newham has the most workers on furlough in London. - Credit: David Copeman Photography

Newham workers are the "hardest hit" by the Covid-19 pandemic in the capital.

There are 33,000 furloughed jobs in the borough - which is the highest number in London.

This is 3,000 more than second highest Ealing and three times the number of Kingston Upon Thames which has the lowest.

furlough chart

Newham has the highest number of furloughed roles in the capital, ONS figures show. - Credit: PRD

The Office for National Statistics figures also show Newham's universal credit claimant rate has soared 231 per cent compared to a London average of 167pc.

In February 2020, there were 8,000 people claiming. This hit 26,650 in December. Custom House saw the highest percentage of working age residents claiming.

uc claimant chart

Newham has recorded the highest percentage increase in universal credit claimants. - Credit: PRD

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Chris Paddock, a director at consultancy PRD, said: "Newham's economy has been the hardest hit.

"When furlough comes to an end, there may be 33,000 who may well become unemployed. It's very stark, significant and serious."

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He warned there would probably not be enough jobs to meet demand and Newham's economy had to adapt.

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz. Picture: R. Fiaz

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz is changing the emissions based parking scheme - Credit: R Fiaz

The mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, argued that the borough would not just "build back better" but "build back fairer" under the town hall's Covid-19 recovery plans for the economy.

She explained how even before the pandemic, the average household income in Newham was £10,000 below the London average of £29,500 with many residents in low paid, low skill roles.

ward claimant rates

These graphics show which wards have seen the steepest rises in universal credit claimants. - Credit: PRD

Town hall research in 2019 found 36,000 people in Newham weren't being paid the national living wage. 

The impact of Covid-19 has had a significant impact on retail, hospitality and construction - three of the main sectors on which Newham residents rely for jobs and opportunities.

Under the plan, Newham's economy would be repositioned as the greenest in London with aims to address climate change and promote the creation of jobs which have a positive impact on the planet.

Manufacturers seeking to bring operations back from overseas would also be wooed under the plan with inward investors eyeing sites in Stratford and Royal Docks, the Recorder understands.

Building "genuinely affordable" homes; helping people get into better paid, long-term jobs and wellbeing support for under 25s are further pillars of the plan.

The council has pledged to only welcome investment in the borough which results in a "fair deal and a fair economy".

As part of the Towards a Better Newham recovery plan, the town hall intends to use the purchasing power of its £1.5billion annual spend to support business, growth and jobs.

But the mayor explained how instead of traditional measures, the focus would be on health, wellbeing and happiness as indicators of economic success.

Steps aimed at reducing inequalities - including those of race - developing skills and boosting incomes are being taken.

A workers' rights unit is being set up with the TUC union. A youth empowerment team is to make sure youngsters feel confident enough to report rogue employers.

Ms Fiaz said "a big stand" has got to be taken against exploitation in the labour market, including enforcement.

"We have no hesitation in calling out employers if they are deploying abusive and exploitative practices, including towards our young people," she added.

Mr Paddock pointed to workers on zero hours contracts, those in the gig economy and others employed by large multinational companies as those who can find themselves exploited.

Properties owned by the local authority could also be made available for people who want to start a business or those needing space to grow.

Talks are also taking place between the council, London Legacy Development Corporation and Royal Docks Team about training, paid work experience and internships.

Newham's recovery plan has been thrashed out against a backdrop of cuts with the town hall needing to find £12million worth of extra savings.

But Ms Fiaz sounded a note of optimism about Newham's long term future under the plans.

"It will be a place where residents feel hopeful, optimistic and happy. It will be a lovely borough to be part of, to grow up in where people have opportunities and know they are supported by their council.

"It's going to be really exciting."

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