Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce a limited extension to the furlough scheme today as the government faces mounting criticism over fresh local lockdown restrictions across the country.
Sunak will outline new support for people and businesses in England facing strict new measures set to come into force next week, including the closure of pubs and restaurants.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “The chancellor will be setting out the next stage of the job support scheme later today, that will protect jobs and provide a safety net for those businesses that may have to close in the coming weeks and months.”
It comes as the government faces increasing scrutiny over plans to introduce new lockdown restrictions ahead of the end of the furlough scheme on 31 October.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham suggested he would take the government to court to stop new measures being introduced without “proper compensation and a local furlough scheme for staff”.
Earlier this month the chancellor announced a new job support scheme to replace the current furlough scheme, which would provide support for staff working at least a third of their hours.
But senior figures in the hospitality industry have warned the new scheme will not be enough to support jobs in businesses already on their knees after months of closure and the recent introduction of a 10pm curfew.
Pub bosses yesterday called for a full extension of the furlough scheme amid hints the Prime Minister is considering sweeping closures in the North of England within the next few days.
Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: “The new job support scheme does not go far enough. It is imperative that we have a furlough scheme to protect jobs and other costs through the winter.”
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s, said: “We need 100 per cent furlough support to be introduced from the day that there are lockdowns otherwise there are hundreds of thousands if not a million jobs across the industry that will be at risk.”
The pub chain last week warned that it would have to make around 500 workers redundant by the end of October as the furlough scheme ends.
As many as 5.3m people remained on the furlough scheme at the end of the July, the latest figures from HMRC showed, suggesting the scale of job losses that may lay on the horizon when the scheme winds to an end.
Trade body UK Hospitality, which represents more than 700 companies and 65,000 venues across Britain, said new restrictions without an extension to the furlough scheme were “inarguable”.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “To save jobs and businesses, government support for hospitality must be at the same levels of the furlough scheme where there are forced closures, and two thirds of wages where curfews and other restrictions are seeing trade hit hard.
“The inarguable fact is that all of the restrictions currently in place or under consideration, make it impossible for most venues to operate anywhere near profitably.”