You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Last week, a parliamentary session lasting over sixteen months ended. The State Opening of a new session will take place next Tuesday, where, following a centuries old tradition, the Queen will visit Parliament and read out a list of the Conservative Government’s priorities for the year ahead.
The first test for the Conservatives in this Queen’s Speech will be to commit once more to securing jobs and backing our local businesses, helping people across the North East, rather than lining the pockets of their mates with dodgy contracts worth millions of pounds.
In Government, Labour would work with private enterprise to create the next generation of high-skilled jobs, and get people into work, training or education, while ensuring the protection of public sector jobs. Labour’s priority is to see jobs protected by holding the Tories to account and by working hard locally to support businesses, trade unions and employees.
We know that the easing of restrictions will help us see many people return to work. But many will not. This Queen’s Speech follows a national report by Green Alliance which shows Washington and Sunderland West has the highest Labour Market Challenge Score (the greatest combination of pre- and post-pandemic unemployment), scoring 239, compared with the national average of 100. This shows that Washington and Sunderland West will have the highest employment challenge nationwide post-pandemic.
It is clear that it will take our community a long time to rebuild; and it is only the Labour Party whose priorities lie firmly with rebuilding our communities and securing the future of our jobs.
Ten years of Conservative austerity cuts have left our councils cash-strapped, while pay for key workers has decreased in real terms. The pandemic only exacerbated the deep-rooted inequalities already present, while favours were provided for those who have ministers in their Whatsapp contacts.
There’s no reason we can’t have job security, more opportunities, high streets we are proud of, and public services that put people first: the Government just has to prioritise them.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to remind readers to use their vote today in our local elections for Councillors and the Police and Crime Commissioner. Our council has worked hard to ensure that this can be done in Covid-safe manner. Results should be known by midday Friday.