THE Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a series of measures aimed at stabilising the economy and preventing mass unemployment and a housing crash in the wake of the coronavirus.
In his summer statement on Wednesday, Mr Sunak said that, while he would not be renewing the furlough scheme, due to end in October, he was offering an incentive to employers to retain furloughed workers until January 2021: a £1000 bonus for employers for each furloughed employee. The scheme could cost as much as £9 billion if every furloughed worker was covered, he said.
Mr Sunak pledged a further £2 billion to subsidise six-month work placements for Universal Credit claimants aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.
The measure was tentatively welcomed by the Children’s Society. The charity said that more detail was needed, however, on how vulnerable people such as care leavers would be supported. It also called for a more comprehensive package to support children who were suffering from the impacts of school closures and parents who were out of work.
The chief executive, Mark Russell, said: “It was deeply disappointing to see so little in the Chancellor’s plans to address the deep scars lockdown and school closures have inflicted on children’s happiness and mental health. . . Jobs and protecting the economy are, of course, important, but so is protecting our children.”
The Chancellor also pledged £2 billion to renovate public buildings and as many as 650,000 UK homes to make them more energy efficient.
The head of UK advocacy and campaigns for Christian Aid, Paul Brannen, said: “Although the Chancellor did not mention the people of the global South directly in his speech, the home insulation measures he set out to reduce energy waste in the UK will have a beneficial impact on people already bearing the brunt of climate breakdown overseas.
“The spread of Covid-19 has shown just how interconnected the world is, and climate change is the ultimate example of this. Our economic choices in response to the pandemic will have consequences for people now facing the devastating impacts of droughts, storms, and rising temperatures.”
Mr Sunak also unveiled various temporary measures: an increase in the stamp-duty threshold to £500,000, effective immediately; a cut to VAT on any eligible food, accommodation, and attractions from 20 to five per cent; and “eat out to help out” vouchers that would give diners 50 per cent off their meals out (with conditions) throughout August.
The Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, was critical, saying that the Chancellor had “put off big decisions” until the autumn. The money spent on furlough “must not serve merely to postpone unemployment”.