Rishi Sunak will today unveil a rescue package to support millions of jobs
Amid growing concern about the pressure on firms following the latest round of restrictions, he scrapped his Budget planned for this autumn in favour of today’s Winter Economy Plan. Treasury sources told the Daily Express yesterday his latest vast cash injection will be “flexible and adaptable” in the face of the rapidly changing COVID-19 crisis. Key measures are designed to save as many currently furloughed jobs as possible while also creating new opportunities out of recognition that not every job can be saved.
A Treasury source said: “Like everyone else, the Chancellor didn’t want to be in this position, but he’s made sure we are ready for all scenarios.
“We’ll help people and businesses through this next phase of the crisis, but also be honest with them about the trade-offs we need to make in so doing – because that’s leadership.”
Officials insisted that the Chancellor’s top priority will be protecting and creating jobs throughout the coming months.
They said Mr Sunak will be “honest” with the public about the difficult choices he faces.
He will admit that many jobs and businesses will be lost in the coming months due to the impact of the lockdown on the economy.
PM Boris Johnson
But his measures will focus on job creation and backing enterprises to ensure that millions can make the best of new opportunities as the economy recovers.
Mr Sunak will also warn that some economic pain will be necessary in the short term to ensure a bounce back to full health.
His announcements are expected to focus on immediate support for businesses as his Job Retention Scheme winds down.
Longer-term measures are expected to be held back for a full Budget next spring as restrictions are eased and the economic impact of the pandemic made clearer.
Another Treasury source said: “No one wanted to be in this situation but we need to respond to it.
“The Chancellor has shown he has been creative in the past and we hope that people will trust us to continue in that vein.
“Giving people reassurance and businesses the help they need to get through this is uppermost in his mind.”
Treasury officials have been working on contingency plans for the economy throughout the crisis in parallel with the usual Budget preparations.
Insiders say that the package is based on bespoke measures tailored to the UK economy rather than drawing on models used in other countries.
Officials yesterday refused to discuss reports that a German-style wage subsidy scheme, where the state pays up to 60 percent of some workers’ wages, was under consideration.
Mr Sunak will announce the measures to MPs in the Commons today.
On Twitter last night, the Chancellor said: “I will update the House of Commons on our plans to continue protecting jobs through the winter.”
In the Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson confirmed that a “massive package of investment in jobs and growth” was being prepared.
He said: “We will go forward with further creative and imaginative schemes to keep our economy moving.
“Although it is true that some firms are powering through this, many face very difficult circumstances.
“That is why we have put in the support that we have, and do not forget the job retention bonus at the end of the year that will help firms to keep people in employment.
“That is also why we are looking at a massive package of investment in jobs and growth in the short, medium and long term.
“We have already put in place the £2billion kickstart fund and about £640billion of investment overall in infrastructure.
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“In addition to the package that I set out yesterday, there will be creative and imaginative measures from the Chancellor to help people through this crisis.
“What we will do, as I have said throughout, is continue to put our arms around the people of this country going through a very tough time and come up with the appropriate creative and imaginative schemes to keep them in work and keep the economy moving. That is the essence of our approach. We will continue to provide the best support we can possibly give to keep people in jobs and to get people into work while suppressing the virus.”
Mr Johnson rejected a string of Opposition calls yesterday for the furlough scheme to be extended.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged him to “stop and rethink, support the businesses affected”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “The Prime Minister must announce an immediate extension – no half measures – of this vital and lifesaving scheme. Will the Prime Minister show the leadership required and save the jobs?”
Mr Johnson told them: “Of course, the Government is going to come forward with further measures.
“I do not think that it would be sensible simply to extend the current existing furlough scheme in its present form beyond the end of October, but we will do everything we can to support businesses and to support those in jobs and, indeed, the self-employed.”
Later, the PM’s spokesman said: “We have always said we keep our support under review and it will be updated as the circumstances evolve.
“There is a huge amount of support available and that continues to be the case.”
Comment by Digby Jones
Business, the creating of wealth hopefully on a socially inclusive basis, is at the very core of the nation.
No business means no jobs and no tax; no tax means no public sector jobs, no schools and no NHS.
So as we approach the perfect storm of the end of furlough (with inevitable unemployment, especially of the young in the hospitality and leisure sector) and a second wave of COVID-19 with selective, but widespread, lockdowns, business needs help.
There may be selective extensions of furlough, to postpone the ravages of unemployment caused by diminished demand, but as the economy continues to pick up and people release disposable income, those jobs will come back.
What are gone forever are jobs extinguished by employers having learnt in lockdown to do things differently going forwards; those are jobs we need to create again.
As the Chancellor starts to repair the national balance sheet, he should look at ways to help small businesses, to invest in new kit or a new process.
Employers’ National Insurance is a tax on jobs, full stop.
You don’t have to earn money to pay this pernicious tax, you just have to employ someone.
Create more jobs, lose money to start with as the wages get paid before the profits come in – and you still pay NI.
How mad is that!
Help those businesses, large and small, by levelling the playing field.
Why should online giants avoid paying their fair share of profits earned providing services to you and me?
They create huge amounts of discarded packaging yet pay virtually zilch in local taxes to help pay for its disposal.
The plethora of delivery vans bringing internet orders to your doors speaks for itself, yet the shopkeeper or builder often pays more tax proportionally to repair roads and deal with pollution.
And why should Facebook, Google and Amazon get away with paying so little tax on UK sales?
Tax ’em Rishi!
The public are with you on this and those corporate marauders won’t leave town, as their users are here.
But there are other areas of society that could do their bit.
Young adults must obey rules on social distancing and realise, that while they may not be so at risk from the virus, older citizens have as much right to being safe.
If behaviour doesn’t change there will be further enduring lockdowns.
• Lord Jones of Birmingham was Director General of the CBI from 2000 until 2006.