Chancellor set to reveal fresh plans to protect jobs

Rishi Sunak to address Commons and announce how he hopes to protect jobs in sectors hit hard by Covid measures.

Chancellor set to reveal fresh plans to protect jobs Getty Images

The chancellor is expected to outline plans to limit job losses later, following the latest introduction of coronavirus restrictions.

Rishi Sunak will address the Commons after 11.45am and will announce how he hopes to protect jobs in sectors hit hardest by Covid measures.

With the furlough scheme due to finish at the end of October, Sunak and his colleagues in the UK Government have come under pressure from politicians – including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – and unions to extend the support to workers.

It was also revealed on Wednesday, there will be no UK budget in the Autumn as the focus is shifted to prioritising job protection in the present.

The move was criticised by Scottish Government finance secretary Kate Forbes, who said: “This decision is breathtaking in its disregard for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.”

Sunak’s initiative will include VAT cuts, loans for hard hit businesses and wage subsidies, according to reports.

It could see the government and firms share the cost of topping up wages for employees only able to work part-time.

The Treasury said: “We will always be honest with people about the difficult trade-offs that are involved here.

“Not between health and the economy, but between keeping people in jobs and helping them find new ones. And between help in the here and now and rebuilding in the future. That’s what people deserve.”

On Wednesday, Sturgeon said she had written to the Prime Minister asking for more powers or an extension of the job retention scheme.

First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon has called for an extension of the furlough scheme. <strong>Getty</strong>” /><span class=Getty Images

She said: “We mustn’t be hamstrung in essential public health decisions by the lack of necessary economic mitigations.

“All four UK nations agreed a joint statement to the effect that we would focus our efforts ‘on suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there’, and that is really positive.

“It puts aside forever the idea that we can just let this virus run, because we know it does real damage in lives and in health.

“There is an argument… that all of us across the UK should actually be doing even more right now and there is a danger that what starts to hold us back is not the public health analysis but financial limitations.”

She also said it is important that if scientific advice deems it necessary, more measures can be put in place, adding she does not want to feel she is “between a rock and a hard place”.

Sturgeon added: “I think we need to come together across the UK to say ‘let’s do more with the right financial interventions’ and top of that list is extending furlough, or we have greater flexibilities for the devolved administrations where we can take these decisions without that constraint that we are perhaps all under right now.”

The main changes to be enforced in Scotland to combat Covid, include a countrywide ban on household gatherings and a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, which will take effect from Friday.