United Kingdom

Rishi Sunak sparks fears of lockdown return as he extends furlough 

Rishi Sunak today sparked fears of a future return to lockdown after he extended the furlough scheme to the end of September and announced grants for the self-employed will also continue. 

The Chancellor used the Budget to confirm that furloughed workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their wages for the next seven months. 

However, businesses will be asked to contribute more to the scheme, starting with a 10 per cent contribution from July and a 20 per cent contribution from August. 

Meanwhile, the Treasury will run two further rounds of its grants for the self-employed scheme, with the fourth round covering February to April and a fifth and final round covering from May onwards. 

The fourth grant will provide three months of support at 80 per cent of average trading profits while the fifth grant will be more targeted, with the worst affected still getting 80 per cent while others will get 30 per cent.   

Mr Sunak has opted to extend the handouts long beyond Boris Johnson's target date for a return to something close to normal life in England of June 21. 

The move will therefore inevitably prompt concerns that the PM's coronavirus roadmap for reopening could be delayed or that there could be another national shutdown in the future. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today announced that the Government's furlough scheme will be extended to the end of September

Government borrowing could be close to £400billion this financial year and is expected to stay high for years to come 

Official numbers published last month showed state debt was above £2.1trillion in January

Mr Sunak told the House of Commons: 'Every job lost is a tragedy which is why protecting, creating and supporting jobs remains my highest priority.

'So, let me turn straight away to the first part of this Budget's plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people through the remaining phase of this crisis. 

'First, the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September. For employees there will be no change to the terms, they will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends.

'As businesses reopen, we will ask them to contribute, alongside the taxpayer, to the cost of paying their employees. 

'Nothing will change until July when we will ask for a small contribution of just 10 per cent and 20 per cent in August and September. 

'The Government is proud of the furlough, one of the most generous schemes in the world, effectively protecting millions of peoples' jobs and incomes.' 

The Chancellor also said support for the self-employed will continue but that the grant scheme will be made more targeted for the fifth and final round.  

'Support for the self-employed will also continue until September with a fourth grant covering the period February to April and a fifth and final grant from May onwards,' he said.  

'The fourth grant will provide three months of support at 80 per cent of average trading profits. 

'For the fifth grant people will continue to receive grants worth three months of average profits with a system open for claims from late July. 

'But as the economy reopens over the summer, it is fair to target our support towards those most affected by the pandemic. 

'So people whose turnover has fallen by 30 per cent or more will continue to receive the full 80 per cent grant. 

'People whose turnover has fallen by less than 30 per cent will therefore have less need of taxpayer support and will receive a 30 per cent grant.' 

The costs of the government's response to coronavirus have racked up dramatically since Rishi Sunak delivered his first Budget last March

Mr Sunak also announced a 'major improvement' in access to the self-employment scheme which will allow hundreds of thousands more people to access the handouts.

He said: 'When the scheme was launched, the newly self-employed couldn't qualify because they hadn't all filed the 19/20 tax return but as the tax return deadline has now passed I can announce today that provided they filed a tax return by midnight last night over 600,000 more people, many of who became self-employed last year, can now claim the fourth and fifth grants.

'Over the course of this crisis we will have spent £33billion supporting the self-employed, one of the most generous programmes for self-employed people anywhere in the world.'  

Football news:

Lineker on the idea of Perez to reduce the time of matches: Let's make halves of 5 minutes-and a 45-minute break for advertising
Is the threat of top clubs and top players being banned real? Connecting game theory!
55 member associations of UEFA unanimously approved the declaration against the Super League
Guardiola on Super League: Sport is not a sport if there is no connection between the result and the effort
DFB President on Super League: We need to suspend all clubs until they understand that the main thing is not their goals, but the fans
The Premier League has allowed Leeds T-shirts with the Champions League logo and the words Deserve in the warm-up before Liverpool
Gary Neville called for the cancellation of the League Cup final Man City-Tottenham: They do not care about English football