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Rishi Sunak pledges £2.9bn to help 1 million people find work

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares for his spending review in photos released by the Treasury. Photo: HM Treasury/Simon Walker
Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares for his spending review in photos released by the Treasury. Photo: HM Treasury/Simon Walker

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce a £2.9bn ($3.86bn) “Restart” plan to help more than 1 million job-hunters into work.

Measures including “regular, intensive job support” for those out of work for more than a year will be unveiled in the finance minister’s spending review statement on Wednesday lunchtime.

The Treasury said he would also announce “tens of billions” in infrastructure spending, including new roads, homes, railways and cycle lanes. The move will “support and create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country,” it said in a press release. The Conservatives promised £100bn of additional infrastructure spending in their 2019 manifesto.

Meanwhile the chancellor will confirm £1.4bn in extra cash to boost Jobcentre capacity as the ranks of the unemployed have grown in recent months. Another £1.6bn will be provided in funding for “Kickstart’ government-subsidised jobs, which the Treasury expects to create up to 250,000 jobs.

READ MORE: UK spending review: What to expect from Rishi Sunak’s speech

An apprenticeship bonus, handing employers up to £2,000 for every new apprentice, will be extended to next March, and £138m of new cash will fund the prime minister’s lifetime skills guarantee plan.

The guarantee will provide fully funded college training in skills valued by employers for adults without A Level or equivalent qualifications, and is due to start in April in England, according to Downing Street.

WATCH: Chancellor vows ‘no return to austerity’ despite public sector pay freeze reports

No changes are expected to the furlough, job support or self-employment income schemes however, despite pressure to fix gaps in support that have seen up to 2.9 million people excluded from help.

There are also calls for the chancellor to make a temporary uplift to benefits permanent, avoiding a cliff-edge that could see families lose out on £1,000 a year from next March.

READ MORE: 5.5 million workers ‘face pay freeze’ – except NHS workers

The latest official figures show an estimated 1.62m people were unemployed between July and September. With mass lay-offs dominating the headlines and more people looking for work, Britain has seen the sharpest quarterly and annual rise in unemployment since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

“This Spending Review will ensure hundreds of thousands of jobs are supported and protected in the acute phase of this crisis and beyond with a multi-billion package of investment to ensure that no one is left without hope or opportunity,” said Sunak in a statement released by the Treasury.

Business leaders welcomed the support. Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “The chancellor has been tireless in his efforts to protect jobs throughout the crisis and, as the UK begins to eye a recovery in 2021, attention is rightly turning to how to create new jobs.

“The scarring effects of long-term unemployment are all too real, so the sooner more people can get back into work the better.”

WATCH: Why can't governments just print more money?