Workers in rural areas are more at risk of losing their jobs because of the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, it has been claimed.
The study by Grant Thornton UK for the County Councils Network (CCN), which acts for 39 of the biggest English authorities, predicts that almost six million people in England’s counties are working in “at risk” jobs, with 46 per cent of the country’s entire furloughed workforce residing in county areas.
CCN county leaders are calling on the Government to provide councils with devolved powers to protect employment when the furlough scheme ends in October.
Based on the latest statistics to the end of June, Cornwall has the highest proportion of its workforce on furlough (35.1 per cent), with Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Cumbria, Dorset and Devon all also having close to one-third of their workforce on the Government’s scheme.
The report, entitled Place-Based Recovery: How Counties Can Drive Growth Post Covid-19, stresses government must avoid the pandemic exacerbating the divide between major cities and England’s shire counties.
Coun David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “The scale of the economic challenge posed by coronavirus cannot be overstated and today’s research illustrates how exposed county areas are with over half of those areas’ workforces currently in sectors ‘at risk’.
“We fear a significant number of those furloughed will not have employment to go back to unless we act now.
“There is a real risk the pandemic simply exacerbates the long-standing economic divide between county areas and the major cities, with urban metro mayors having more powers and resources at their disposal to address the impact of coronavirus.”
Paul Dossett, head of local government, Grant Thornton UK, added: “While Covid-19 has affected all parts of the country, the impact plays out very differently across different demographics and geographies.
“How particular vulnerabilities are managed and mitigated, and economic opportunities maximised, will look very different around the country.