In Brief

‘I can’t save every job’: Rishi Sunak warns of long, hard winter ahead

Reactions to the government’s winter economy plan

Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled his “winter economy plan” - but admitted that the multibillion-pound package will not be enough to save many jobs and businesses as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

Addressing MPs in the Commons yesterday, the chancellor - or “Radical Rishi”, as Metro calls him - outlined details of a new support programme that will replace the furlough scheme, which ends on 31 October.

According to official figures, nearly three million workers - or 12% of the UK’s workforce - are currently on partial or full furlough leave. 

So what’s the new plan?

Furlough will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme, which will run for half a year from 1 November and is expected to cost £300m a month. The plans also include help for the self-employed, along with business loans and VAT cuts.

To be eligible for support, employees will need to work at least 33% of their usual hours. 

Businesses will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work, but for the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay a third of the equivalent salary.

So employees working at least a third of their usual hours will get at least 77% of their usual pay in total. The government will be paying 22%, capped at a maximum £697.72 a month, while the employer will pay 55%.

The Treasury says the new scheme will “protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus”.

‘Sunak’s lifeboat can’t save everyone’

When questioned yesterday about what defines a job as “viable”, the chancellor “declined to comment”, the BBC reports. He also warned that his economic package would not save every job.

“It is not for me to sit here and make pronouncements on every individual job,” he told a press conference. “What I want to be able to do is to provide as much support as possible given the constraints we operate in. We obviously can’t sustain the same level of things that we were doing at the beginning of this crisis.

“We need to create new opportunities and allow the economy to move forward and that means supporting people to be in viable jobs which provide genuine security. As I’ve said throughout this crisis, I cannot save every business. I cannot save every job. No chancellor could.” 

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general Carolyn Fairbairn has welcomed the new support plan, saying that “it is right to target help on jobs with a future, but can only be part-time while demand remains flat”.

She added: “This is how skills and jobs can be preserved to enable a fast recovery.”

However, the Resolution Foundation think tank has warned that the upcoming scheme “will not significantly reduce the rise in unemployment”. 

Sky News business correspondent Paul Kelso has also cautioned that there “won’t be room for everyone on Sunak’s lifeboat”.

“For many, especially in the hospitality sector, the outlook remains bleak - and last orders will not be far away,” he adds. 

The Guardian’s Larry Elliott puts it even more bluntly, warning that Britain is in for a “long, hard winter”. 

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