Businesses return £1.3bn in furlough cash

·2-min read
Businesses return £1.3bn in furlough cash
The relaxation of coronavirus lockdowns meant businesses were able to take workers off furlough. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

UK businesses have returned £1.3bn ($1.8bn) of the almost £14bn a month spent on the furlough scheme, as post-pandemic reopening boosted spending.

Figures released today show that firms which have overclaimed or decided they no longer need payments received through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme handed back £300m in the last three months.

In total, businesses have repaid £1.3bn to HMRC since July 2020 through adjustments to claims and the voluntary disclosure service, which will continue into 2022.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

HMRC said it is cracking down on those who have fraudulently claimed furlough through its 1,250-strong Taxpayer Protection Taskforce.

With businesses reopening and employment rising to near pre-pandemic levels thanks to the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, the number of people on furlough has now fallen to a record low of 1.6 million.

Around 340,000 people left the scheme in July, with more than a third aged between 18 and 34.

Read more: UK COVID rebound stalls amid recruitment and supply chain issues

The furlough scheme has protected nearly 12 million jobs and supported more than 1.3 million businesses, with 910,000 jobs in Scotland protected, 470,000 jobs in Wales and 280,000 jobs in Northern Ireland, securing livelihoods in communities across the UK.

The news comes following data from the ONS that showed the UK's public sector borrowing had seen its second highest August on record.

Public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks, PSNB ex) was estimated to have been £20.5bn in August 2021, £5.5bn less than in August 2020.

Meanwhile, central government receipts in August 2021 were estimated to have been £61.2bn, £5.3bn more than in August 2020. Central government bodies spent £79.6bn in August 2021, £1bn less than in August 2020.

It also comes amid a jobs boom in the UK. Last week, it was revealed that there were 1,034,000 vacancies in the UK between June and August, a record high as the UK economy opens up following prolonged pandemic shutdowns.

Read more: London lags rest of Britain in UK jobs boom

This comes alongside data showing that 13% of all business have said it is harder to fill vacancies than usual (up from 9% in August).

The data also showed recruitment has been hardest among hospitality businesses, where 30% are finding it harder to recruit, followed by the water industry (27%) and health (23%).

Watch: What is inflation and why is it important?