Sunak cancels Budget and promises financial package to replace furlough scheme

Clay Curtis
September 24, 2020

Sunak has previously said he would be "creative" in finding a way to support jobs, and foreign minister Dominic Raab told Sky News earlier in the day that the government was looking at a range of measures but would not extend the existing scheme.

Reports today suggested the chancellor is now drawing up an alternative to extending the measures already in operation, especially the furlough scheme.

Number 11 said work on the scheme, first revealed by the Chancellor on Twitter, had been taking place in parallel with Budget preparations and the focus has been on jobs to avoid the expected three million unemployed.

Mr Sunak's statement comes after new coronavirus restrictions were announced across the United Kingdom on Wednesday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

No further details were provided and it came as the Government confirmed more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases by 9am on Wednesday - the highest daily number since May 1.

Britain's furlough scheme, which paid up to 80% of employees' wages for staff who are not working, is due to expire on October 31, sooner than similar programmes in other countries.

The damage to the economy could increase if tougher measures are needed, with ministers warning a second lockdown could be required if the new rules are flouted.

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His speech will reportedly include Value-Added Tax cuts, loans for hard-hit businesses and wage subsidies, while it could also see the government and companies share the cost of topping up wages for staff members only able to work part-time due to the pandemic - dubbed the "flexible furlough" scheme.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We have published detailed proposals for a new short-time working and upskilling scheme".

More than £13 billion has been handed to firms and workers through five different Government support schemes in the last month.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked "when is the Prime Minister finally going to act" in the face of calls from Mr Bailey, the CBI and trade unions to continue some form of support after furlough ends.

"We've already seen something like a reduction of almost three quarters of a million... in terms of the number of people on payroll and then we've got at least another two million or so on furlough not working", he told the BBC's Today programme.

And as the government prepared to launch its NHS COVID-19 App, the latest figures showed 6,178 new cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, taking the overall number to 409,729.

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