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Furlough to be extended in Budget, Rishi Sunak indicates

Andrew Woodcock
·2-min read

Furlough support for jobs will be extended in Wednesday’s Budget to keep workers in employment as the economy begins to reopen, chancellor Rishi Sunak has indicated.

The job retention scheme - which pays up to 80 per cent of wages for staff who would otherwise be laid off - is due to expire at the end of April, but the chancellor is coming under intense pressure to extend it as many businesses will still be closed at that point.

He today signalled that it will continue, along with a raft of other business support measures due to run out at the end of March, including business rates relief, support for the self-employed and VAT breaks for hospitality and tourism.

Read more: What time in the Budget announcement tomorrow?

A similar reprieve is also expected for the £20-a-week temporary uplift to Universal Credit, which is currently due to be removed in March.

But Mr Sunak indicated that the extensions may only be brief, saying they will be “aligned” with Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, which runs to 21 June.

Trade group UK Hospitality has called for support to continue to the end of the next financial year in April 2022, to help save companies which will need months to get back to break-even and get on top of debts after a year of near-constant closure.

And a Savanta ComRes poll for The Independent found strong public support for coronavirus measures to be maintained to the summer, the end of 2021 or beyond, with 21 per cent saying the UC uplift should continue indefinitely.

Mr Sunak told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday he wants to “support people and businesses” as the UK emerges from lockdown.

Asked if furlough would be extended, he replied: “I said at the beginning of this crisis that I would do whatever it took to protect people, families and businesses through this crisis and I remain completely committed to that.

“The PM in the roadmap set out a path for us to recover and reopen and I want to support people and businesses along that path.

“I’m not going to comment on specific policies but I want to make sure people realise that we are going to be there to support them and if you look at our track record we went big, we went early and there’s more to come next week.”

Mr Sunak said he knew that the UC uplift had “made a difference to people over the past 12 months”, and indicated that he regarded it as part of the wider support package which he is expected to extend in the Budget.

“It’s one part of a comprehensive plan that we’ve put in place to protect people, particularly those on low incomes,” he said.

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