The furlough extension is welcome, but Rishi Sunak’s chaos has cost health and jobs

Yesterday, the Chancellor made yet another last-minute statement to Parliament about economic support during the coronavirus crisis.

Some of the measures that have been announced are welcome, but his refusal to address problems of his own making until the last minute has already risked lives, cost jobs and caused chaos. This week, I have been urging the Government to make improvements.

On Tuesday, along with fellow Labour MPs and Council leaders I wrote to Rishi Sunak to urge him to adopt a coherent longer-term strategy that would support jobs and health in Greater Manchester and the North West. You can read it below.

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to ask a Prime Minister’s Question after being drawn in the ballot. I used it to challenge the Government on why they had refused to extend 80% furlough to those in Greater Manchester unable to work due to Tier 3 restrictions, as requested by Andy Burnham, when they seem happy to do so now that restrictions will affect the south.

I pointed out that someone in Manchester whose workplace is closed under Tier 3 would lose their income in exactly the same way as someone whose workplace was closed due to a national lockdown, and urged the Prime Minister to continue the same support for areas that might have to go back into Tier 3 after December 2nd. You can watch my question and the Prime Minister’s reply below:

https://fb.watch/1BgDYPKO_6/

Since then, the Chancellor announced that the furlough scheme will be extended across the UK until the end of March, paying up to 80% of a person’s wages. This is a welcome U-turn after he previously ridiculed a furlough extension as ‘a blunt instrument’.

Support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will also be increased, with the third grant covering November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.

But the Chancellor has continued to turn his back on millions of people, with the newly self-employed, those who pay themselves in dividends, freelancers and sole traders who previously had a trading profit of more than £50,000 among those who are still ineligible for the help. This act of negligence is making people’s lives a misery and Labour will keep pushing the government for support for the people who have been excluded.

When Labour called for a circuit breaker it could have been short and effective. Instead the Government waited until the last minute to act again – a delay that will be counted in lost jobs, lives and livelihoods. Many will be relieved at the extension of furlough and the SEISS announced today, but for others, the damage has already been done.

The Chancellor must end the last-minute scramble and set out a proper plan for the next six months – to fix Test, Trace and Isolate, to provide clarity on the economic support local areas can expect if they have to stay in lockdown longer, and to set out how the government intends to recover jobs and rebuild business.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s