The alternative to a one-size-fits-all withdrawal of furlough

Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, has joined Labour colleagues in urging the Tories to rethink after voting to put millions of jobs at risk.

Instead of the Government’s proposed furlough cliff edge at the end of October, Labour is calling for targeted income support to continue for businesses and self-employed people in the sectors of the economy hit hardest hit by coronavirus.

But when Labour’s proposal was put to a vote yesterday, the Tories defeated it by 325 to 249.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has pledged that Labour will do ‘everything we can to save jobs’, as analysis has revealed that over four million UK jobs across the country were still fully furloughed by their employer in the middle of August.

This means nearly half of all workers who were moved onto the Government’s Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS) in the early phase of the Covid-19 crisis remain fully furloughed by their employer over four months later.

Regional breakdowns show that over half a million jobs are at risk in both London and the wider South East, over 450,000 in the North West and almost 400,000 in the East of England.

Over two and a half million people had also made claims under the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) by the end of July. The final phase of that scheme opened last month.

Yesterday the Conservatives voted to put those jobs and livelihoods at risk by pushing ahead with a one-size-fits-all withdrawal of both the CJRS and SEISS schemes across the entire economy by the end of October.

Businesses in the hardest-hit sectors are still operating well below capacity and, with coronavirus cases rising again, it looks highly unlikely that they will be back to normal in just six weeks’ time. October’s deadline is a cliff-edge that could lead to a massive spike in unemployment.

Anneliese Dodds said:

“The Conservatives have voted to put over four million jobs at risk by ploughing ahead with their disastrous one-size-fits-all withdrawal of wage support across the economy.

“The Chancellor is convinced that “any deviation” from his plan will damage the UK economy. Labour will hold him to that when wage support ends at the end of October.

“And we will do everything we can to help save jobs in the weeks running up to the Chancellor’s furlough cliff edge.

Jeff Smith said:

“In an ideal world we would like to see everyone who’s been furloughed returning to work, but for many people working in the hardest hit sectors, like the arts and events industries, that just won’t be possible by the end of October.

“Especially with the concerning new uptick in coronavirus cases, it’s obvious the Government need to be much more flexible in their offer of support. To end furlough for all sectors next month would be disastrous for jobs.

“It’s regrettable that the Tories voted against Labour’s proposals yesterday, but there is still time for the Chancellor to listen to Labour, trade unions and industry leaders, plus increasing numbers of his own backbenchers, and act to protect jobs.”

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