The Chancellor’s decision to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until October will protect thousands of jobs in Cumbria, says the chief executive of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.
The scheme pays 80 per cent of the salaries of people unable to work (furloughed) because of Coronavirus, capped at £2,500 per month, and had been due to close at the end in June.
However, the announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday that it will continue until the end of July and in modified form until the end of October has been welcomed by the chamber’s chief executive Rob Johnston.
He said: “This scheme has been hugely beneficial in Cumbria where we have a large number of hospitality and tourism businesses that have been forced to close entirely. They employ 65,000 people. Without the Job Retention Scheme, many of them would have been made redundant.
“We lobbied hard through the British Chambers of Commerce for the scheme to be extended and we’re delighted that the Chancellor has acted on what we said.
“He’s also agreed to our proposal to change the scheme rules to allow employers to partially furlough staff so businesses can employ individuals part-time with furlough payments covering the days they don’t work. That added flexibility will benefit many businesses here, including manufacturers and construction firms that are operating at a reduced level because of supply chain issues.”
Nationally, 7.5 million workers have been furloughed and are receiving payments under the scheme. Cumbria Chamber of Commerce’s coronavirus survey suggests that as many as 60 per cent of businesses in the county have furloughed at least some of their employees.
Mr Johnston said: “The Chancellor plans to reduce the level of support offered beyond July and he’s going to consult Chambers and other organisations on how to do that. He could reduce the percentage of salaries covered, lower the £2,500 monthly cap or a combination of the two.
“The point we will make forcibly to him is that, even when businesses reopen, social distancing rules mean that many will operate at a reduced level. They will need continued financial support from government if we’re to avoid a catastrophic spike in business insolvencies and redundancies in the months ahead.
“We’ll continue to lobby the Government to ensure Cumbrian businesses are represented and we’ll continue to update our online toolkit so businesses have the information they need,” he added.
The toolkit is available at https://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/news/27976-coronavirus-what-businesses-need-to-know and businesses can complete the Chamber’s Coronavirus survey at https://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/news/28108-complete-our-coronavirus-survey
The Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help businesses apply for payments under the Job Retention Scheme, email [email protected]