Coronavirus: Rishi Sunak to unveil new job support measures ahead of tighter lockdown restrictions

Treasury says measures will ‘provide a safety net for those businesses that may have to close in the coming weeks and months’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 09 October 2020 08:28 BST
The chancellor outlined furlough 2.0 last week
The chancellor outlined furlough 2.0 last week (Reuters)

Rishi Sunak is to set out the next phase of the government’s support for jobs affected by the coronavirus crisis, providing a “safety net” for businesses that may be forced to close in the coming weeks.

Amid rising infections in major cities in Northern England and the reported closures of all pubs, restaurants and bars next week in the region, the chancellor will today announce new support for businesses, the Treasury said.

It comes as government minister Gillian Keegan admitted the Covid-19 situation in the northern areas such as Manchester and Liverpool is “getting out of control”, with the country facing an “unbelievably serious situation”.

On Friday, a Treasury spokesperson said: “The chancellor will be setting out the next stage of the Job Support Scheme later today that will protect jobs and provide a safety net for those businesses that may have to close in the coming weeks and months.”

Boris Johnson is widely expected to announce further restrictions next week, and the extra support is a clear sign the prime minister is considering ordering the closure of the hospitality industry in virus hotspots in England.

According to The Times, the Treasury will announce a furlough scheme in which the state will subsidise two-thirds of workers’ wages in industries directly affected by local lockdowns.

Such a measure would be more generous that the wage support scheme unveiled at the chancellor’s winter economic statement, but does not go as far as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, paying workers 80 per cent of wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

There was confusion about expected shutdown orders for hospitality premises on Thursday, with the prime minister’s official spokesperson refusing to confirm apparently well-sourced reports suggesting that new restrictions in top-tier areas – such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle – will see pubs, restaurants and cafes closed down from next week, with leisure venues and hairdressers also likely to be shut.

Middle tier areas, mostly in the Midlands and north, would have simplified versions of current local lockdown restrictions, while the bottom tier would continue under national measures such as the “rule of six” and 10pm hospitality curfew.

Effectively confirming there would be no announcement before Monday, he added: “If there is anything new to set out in terms of our approach to local lockdown measures, then that will be done in parliament.”

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