No plans to bring back furlough or shut businesses after calls on PM to guarantee extra cash

No plans to bring back furlough or shut businesses after calls on PM to guarantee extra cash


MINISTERS have no plans to bring back furlough or shut businesses to deal with the new Omicron variant – after calls on the PM to guarantee extra money.

Downing Street confirmed today they were not planning to bring back the job support scheme after Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford piled on the pressure for him to promise money if needed.

They want guarantees the UK Treasury will cough up extra cash for furlough and other business help schemes – in case they have to close.

Their letter to the PM said: "We also wish to confirm that devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event more interventionist measures are required to respond to the public
health situation.

"In our view, it would be better to consider this now, in advance of a potential
escalation in the seriousness of the situation, to support effective planning."

And in a swipe at the PM, they added: "We do not want to be in a position again where our public health interventions are negatively impacted by a lack of financial support, but can be switched on as required for England."

But when asked about their demand, a No10 spokesperson said today: "We're not planning to change our approach with regards to furlough – obviously we've put in significant support over the course of the pandemic."

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The furlough scheme, which was launched in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, paid up to 80 per cent of wages throughout the crisis, helping struggling businesses to stay afloat.

It was finally wound down after 18 months in September, after being tapered down over the summer, and costing the Chancellor billions of pounds.

Boris Johnson announced a raft of new measures to try and combat the new omicron variant over the weekend, including:

  • Face masks returning for kids in secondary schools in communal areas
  • Everyone coming into the country should take a day two PCR test and isolate until they get a result
  • People who are contacts of anyone with the new variant should isolate for ten days
  • Face masks will be made mandatory on public transport and in shops from tomorrow – with £200 fines for people who refuse

The UK has nine confirmed cases of the new strain, but more are expected to follow.

Three cases of the new Omicron variant had already been identified in England – although officials fear that means hundreds could already be infected.

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