Bromley tops London with 182% rise in unemployment claims

The borough of Bromley has topped London when it comes to the number of residents forced to claim unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has revealed.

Bromley experienced a 182 per cent rise in claims as of May – the highest percentage increase out of all London boroughs – as lockdown measures saw thousands left without work during the early months of the pandemic.

Released by capital city thinktank Centre for London on Wednesday, the London Intelligence report aimed to present a “review of the city” five months on from the beginning of the pandemic.

It shows the next hardest hit were fellow outer London boroughs of Redbridge (176 per cent rise) and Harrow (172 per cent).

Bromley’s neighbours, including Greenwich and Bexley, saw their claims rise by 136 and 167 per cent respectively.

Part of Bromley’s skyrocketing number of benefits claims can be attributed to its comparatively low rate of claimants before the pandemic.

Statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions show that in May last year 4,185 in the borough were claiming unemployment benefits, jumping to 11,787 by May this year.

In comparison, southern neighbours Croydon had 10,814 claimants before the pandemic, jumping up to 22,508 by May this year.

Compiled in partnership with the Policy Institute and the Centre for Urban Science and Progress at King’s College London, the report also looked at consumer spending during the pandemic.

It revealed that smaller town centres had returned or even exceeded normal economic activity – including grocery shopping, restaurant dining and apparel shopping – by mid-July.

However, for larger centres – such as Bromley and Orpington – the picture is “more mixed” with the number of transactions running about a third lower in July than in January 2020.

News Shopper: Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill has advocated temporarily lifting the eligibility threshold for Universal Credit to make it easier to claim. Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill has advocated temporarily lifting the eligibility threshold for Universal Credit to make it easier to claim.

The figures mentioned in the report mirror other trends in the borough during the pandemic – such as the use of Bromley Foodbank more than doubling in March this year, compared to the same time in 2019.

Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill told the local democracy reporting service, while the furlough scheme protected more than 10,000 jobs during the pandemic, the Government had to continue to offer support.

He also called on the criteria for claiming Universal Credit be relaxed to make it easier for those in need to claim.

“These figures are, of course, very concerning. Although this rise looks particularly profound given Bromley’s historically low unemployment rate, behind each statistic lies someone who has lost the security of work and we must, as a community and a government, do everything we can to support them,” Sir Bob said.

“In the Bromley and Chislehurst constituency alone – which only forms around a quarter of the borough – 12,000 jobs have been protected via the furlough scheme and over £14 million has been paid out through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. There is though still more to do.

“I have been making the case that we should temporarily lift the eligibility threshold for Universal Credit so that more people can access its support through this especially difficult time, and will continue to lobby the Government to provide tailored assistance to freelancers and those sectors particularly at risk.”

Bromley Council and Beckenham MP Bob Stewart were also contacted for their comments.

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