THE new leader of the Labour party has pledged to support Southampton and its economy as the city prepares to recover from the pandemic.

Sir Keir Starmer has told the Daily Echo that he wants to see a transformed economy in the city and said he will push the government to continue to support Southampton residents whose jobs are at risk.

The news comes as yesterday Southampton residents had the opportunity to quiz Sir Keir in a virtual meeting.

Talking to the Daily Echo he said: “What we intend to do for all of those in Southampton whose jobs are at risk or who are worried about the future is to push the government really hard on the scheme it’s got in place, the furlough scheme and the scheme for self-employed people.”

He said it’s important to identify those who cannot be supported by these schemes and added: “The reason we need to do that is because we want the economy to recover as quickly as possible but that is only going to happen if the damages are kept to a minimum.”

He said that regional plans and regional investments are critical and pledged to work to transform and improve the economy in Southampton in the future.

“What we want to see is a transformed economy in Southampton and across the South,” he added.

But Sir Keir also said he fears that a no-deal Brexit could cause job losses across the country and in Southampton.

“I don’t think anybody wants that whichever way they voted. We need to make sure we get the best deal we can with the EU. I think there are huge risks of leaving without a deal,” he added.

Sir Keir also stressed the importance of ensuring that climate change is considered in future plans.

But when asked whether the proposals to expand the runway at Southampton Airport should be approved he said: “I think in any infrastructure project the environmental impact has to be a key priority and therefore for me that would be one of the key indicators as to whether a plan should go ahead or not.”

During the meeting Southampton residents asked Sir Keir about future support for health and care workers, the future of the Labour party and the future of the country after the pandemic.

Sir Keir said: “We have to reset. What we can’t do is going through this together as a nation and then go back to business as usual because business as usual had far too many inequalities built into it.”

He said the Labour party has to reunite and ensure a stronger presence across the South.

He also said he wants to restore trust with the public.