Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme in December as it became clear that coronavirus would continue to impact the economy. These changes were made ahead of the March budget, in which the Chancellor confirmed the Government will deliver it’s next phase of tackling the pandemic.
At the time, Rishi welcomed the extension with the following comments: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.
“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support, as well as implementing our Plan for Jobs.”
The Job Retention Scheme has been essential for struggling workers, with the Government’s figures revealing over 10 million jobs had been protected from the payments.
Further claims can be made over the coming weeks but a retrospective deadline falls tomorrow.
Rishi Sunak and the wider Government have confirmed there’ll be no announcement on any possible extensions ahead of the Spring budget but many organisations have called for further support in recent months.
These calls are likely to become more frequent over the coming weeks as it was revealed that UK GDP struggled through 2020.
The UK economy shrank by around 9.9 percent in 2020, the biggest drop seen since 1709.
While the final quarter of 2020 saw a rise of one percent, many warned the growth should not be viewed with too much confidence.
Douglas Grant, a Director of Conister, commented on the numbers: “Rises in GDP over a quarter are usually a sign of a healthy, strengthening and growing economy.
“Unfortunately this nominal climb in output, while better than expected, does not reflect the dire situation that many businesses are facing.
“Earlier this week the Resolution Foundation warned that the UK Government has risked creating a legion of zombie companies and we must avoid amplifying this status of many of the UK’s SMEs, living off an ever-increasing debt pile, at all costs.
“While, the BBLS and CBILS played instrumental roles in keeping many resilient SMEs alive and acted as important triage systems to identify and support viable businesses that needed credit, we must now accept that we have passed this triage phase and instead it is imperative that we identify, prioritise and protect our most resilient individual business sectors and segments.”
Companies and workers alike are likely set to struggle for at least a few more months as the Government will likely have lockdown rules in place until the spring.
In late January, Boris Johnson was asked during a coronavirus briefing if he would extend the furlough scheme past April and in response, the Prime Minister had the following to say: “We’ll do whatever it takes to support the people of this country throughout the pandemic, support jobs, support livelihoods as we have done throughout.
“But you know, obviously the faster we can roll out the vaccine, the faster we can get on with giving businesses what they really want which is certainty about being able to resume something like life and business as usual.
“Getting there depends, as I think has been a pretty consistent message, on our ability not just to roll out the vaccine but also to make sure we work together to get the infection rate down, and that means obeying the rules. Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
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