Cliff-edge fear when furlough comes to an end

Hard-hit businesses and their employees could be left on a ‘cliff edge’ when furlough ends, it has been warned.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak

About 168,700 workers remain on furlough across the Black Country, Staffordshire and Birmingham – the majority in the accommodation and food services sector.

But fears are now being raised over the end of Rishi Sunak’s lifeline scheme in September, with business leaders in the region calling on the Government to maintain support if needed.

Neil Anderson, director of external affairs at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said although the scheme has saved many jobs redundancies are still a big worry for the future.

“The job retention scheme has provided a vital lifeline which has kept many people employed in sectors which have been shut or severely impacted by lockdowns and has ensured that businesses are able to keep their employees," he said.

“We know that in some instances, placing people on furlough has saved jobs, as businesses whose income streams have dried up have not had to face the hard choice of letting people go.

Neil Anderson, director of external affairs at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.

"This has not been the case for everybody, and we’re aware that job losses are still a concern with some businesses continuing to struggle as they’re only allowed to partially re-open.

"Until full confidence returns, and businesses can once again trade fully and consistently, we are keeping up pressure that the end of furlough does not mean a cliff edge for businesses or their employees and that the government continues to do all that it can to maintain support to those who need it.”

Sector

Latest government figures show 462,500 people have been furloughed across the Black Country, Birmingham and Staffordshire, since the beginning of the initiative with 168,700 workers still on it at the end of February.

Provisional figures, up to February 28, show a total of 72,300 people are still on furlough across Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley. It takes the overall total to 203,700 for the four areas. A further 28,800 people are on furlough in Cannock Chase, Lichfield, South Staffordshire and Stafford, bringing the overall total for the four areas to 79,700.

Another 67,600 are on furlough in Birmingham – bringing the total there to 179,100 – with a further 6,600 in the Wyre Forest District, taking the figure to 18,200.

A total of 17,500 workers in the manufacturing sector alone remain furloughed in the region. Meanwhile another 7,950 are furloughed in the construction industry, with a further 32,370 employees in the accommodation and food services sector – including hotels and restaurants – have also been furloughed across the area in total.

Chris Plant, director at the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “The extension of the furlough scheme shows that the Chancellor has listened to our business communities.

“The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for companies all across the UK and has allowed many businesses to plan with greater optimism and confidence as they look to restart and rebuild over the coming months.

“If firms face unexpected bumps in the road, the Chancellor must be prepared to take action until the economy is firing on all cylinders again.”

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