Sunak's latest scheme hailed by MPs – but will it be enough to save jobs?

MPs say thousands of jobs will be saved after the Chancellor announced a wave of new measures designed to keep Britain's economy afloat over the winter.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced new measures aimed at protecting jobs
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced new measures aimed at protecting jobs

Rishi Sunak's new wage subsidy scheme – which will replace furlough – will see the Government top up the pay of those who are unable to work full time.

It has been launched to stop huge job losses and comes after Ministers announced fresh restrictions aimed at tackling a surge in the Covid-19 infection rate.

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Under the scheme, if firms bring back workers on a part-time basis, the Government will help top up their wages with employers to at least three quarters of their full-time pay.

It has received support from across the political spectrum in the Black Country and Staffordshire, although Labour has today warned the measures may not go far enough to prevent huge job losses.

And some Tory MPs have also warned the state may be forced to continue to subsidise workers unless people stop flouting Covid-19 restrictions and adhere to social distancing.

The scheme, which also includes further VAT cuts for the hospitality and retail sectors, as well as the extension of the emergency loan schemes for struggling businesses, is expected to cost £300m a month.

Pat McFadden, the Shadow City Minister and MP for Wolverhampton South East, said: "The Chancellor’s statement was necessary because the Government thought we would be out of the woods by now but that has proven not to be the case.

"The continued spread of the virus and numerous local restrictions around the country – including in large parts of the West Midlands – mean it was simply impossible to continue with the jobs cliff edge that was planned for the end of October. To do so would have unleashed a huge wave of job losses.

"Support for short time working, the continuation of the VAT cut for tourism and hospitality and giving businesses longer to pay back loans are all welcome measures.

"But everyone should be clear that, overall, this is a big reduction in government support compared to the measures that have been in place for the past six months.

"There was nothing in the statement for the estimated three million people who have had no support at all from the Government for various reasons.

"And for those sectors which can’t operate even part time because of public health restrictions, the fear must still be that there could be many job losses to come."

Sir Bill Cash, the Conservative MP for Stone, has been hugely critical of people who breach Covid restrictions throughout the pandemic.

Back in August he branded a major outbreak linked to a pub in his constituency as "completely unacceptable" and lambasted residents for failing to adopt a "common sense approach" to social distancing.

While he welcomes Mr Sunak's support for businesses and workers, he says the main reason it was required is that too many people are still refusing to stick to the rules.

"I firmly believe that in these difficult circumstances assistance for businesses is essential," Sir Bill told the Express & Star.

"What has been put forward goes a long way towards helping people with their jobs, but I would add that the reason why we are in the current difficulties is as a direct result of the irresponsible behaviour of some people who have gone out and broken the rules of social distancing.

"I strongly urge people to stick to the rules, not only because of the penalties, but also out of a duty and responsibility to the community.

"If people had done this in the first place then we wouldn't now have this degree of problems for businesses and jobs."

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, hailed the new measures. He said: "This means that most workers are covered until a vaccine is found and the worldwide coronavirus crisis has ended."

West Bromwich East's Conservative MP, Nicola Richards, said businesses and workers in her constituency would be "extremely grateful" for the new measures.

"It is fair that the scheme targets those businesses who need it the most," she added.

Marco Longhi, the Tory MP for Dudley North, said the Chancellor had "come up trumps once again for workers and businesses".

He added: "These measures will save a lot of jobs, and people can feel reassured that when the going gets tough this Government is here to help them."

Mr Longhi also hit back at Labour criticisms that the measures would not cover enough jobs and was "too little, too late".

He said: "What we have seen time and time again from the Labour Party is that they never set out what they would do.

"Instead they wait for the Government to make a decision and then throw stones.

"Throughout the pandemic we have never seen them make a positive contribution to sorting out the problems faced by businesses.

"As usual for the Labour Party, they are all for measures which involve increasing reliance on the state and intruding into people's lives.

"We can't save every job, but the measures the Chancellor has put forward will strike the right balance for a strong economy."

Theo Clarke, the Conservative MP for Stafford, said: "I am pleased that the Chancellor has announced this new range of support for employers and employees.

"It is vital that we do all we can to support them. However, sadly it is inevitable that some people will lose their jobs and businesses and it is also important that we stand ready to help and support all of those in any way we can.

"I met with the Chancellor recently to represent local businesses in many sectors and I’m grateful that he listened to how the Stafford constituency is being impacted by the pandemic. I will continue to make the case for all of us locally at all levels of Government."

Mr Sunak also announced he has scrapped November's Budget, saying the long-term decisions that would have been part of it must be delayed so the Treasury can focus on avoiding a short-term economic crisis.

The move has been questioned by Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, the Shadow Leader of the Commons. She said: "I wait to see the detail of the schemes announced.

"The Chancellor knew the furlough scheme was coming to an end. Businesses and the people who work for them needed more certainty so sector specific discussions, schemes and help would have been the best way forward in these uncertain times.

"There is no Autumn Budget which the Chancellor could have used to adjust the package of support."

Mr Sunak said his scheme was aimed at supporting "viable jobs" as opposed to jobs that only exist because the Government is continuing to subsidise the wages.

According to official figures around three million workers are on the current furlough scheme, which ends on October 31.

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