Martin Lewis says furlough system has ‘chasm of holes’
Covid-19 lockdown measures imposed by the Government have kept people at home again for weeks and could do so for months more depending on the country’s infection situation. Most people have successfully navigated the worst pitfalls of the lockdown – job losses and financial insecurity – with aid from Universal Credit boosts, free school meals, and furlough. But Tory MPs have abstained in a vote keep the benefits boost for millions of people and free school meals will end temporarily for the February half term, leaving many people fearful about what to expect.
Will Rishi Sunak extend furlough?
Furlough has provided millions of people across the UK with stability amid looming job losses.
The Government’s policy has aimed to cover employee costs and prevent mass layoffs due to Covid-led financial insecurity.
Much like the Government’s other Covid policies, ministers designed the furlough scheme as a temporary measure, but extensions have pushed it further on more than one occasion.
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Furlough, otherwise known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, has received several extensions.
The first few pushed it through spring and summer 2020 and into autumn.
The latest extension promised furlough advantages until at least April this year.
Mr Sunak will announce the spring budget in March when people expect an update on the current fiscal guards against the fallout of Covid-19.
Few details have emerged about what to expect, but the Government recently voted against keeping the £20 Universal Credit boost.
Instead, Mr Sunak could introduce a one-off £500 payment, half that of the £1000 benefits annual extension.
People may question whether they can expect support withdrawal to follow through with the furlough scheme as well.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called on the chancellor to announce an extension to furlough before the budget.
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The lobby group also called on the treasury to extend the business rate holiday.
Such ongoing support could help save a tumbling economy, the CBI said.
CBI director-general Tony Danker said support must remain in proportion with Covid restrictions.
He said: “Many tough decisions for business owners on jobs, or even whether to carry on, will be made in the next few weeks.
“If the Government plans to continue its support then I urge them to take action before the budget which is still more than six weeks away.
“The Government has done so much to support UK business through this crisis, we don’t want to let slip all the hard work from 2020 with hope on the horizon.
“The rule of thumb must be that business support remains in parallel to restrictions and that those measures do not come to a sudden stop, but tail off over time.
“Just as the lifting of restrictions will be gradual, so must changes to the government’s sterling support to businesses.”
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