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05 November 2020 14:34

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Furlough scheme extended to end of March at 80% pay, Rishi Sunak announces

"He will know as well as I know the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) are one of our preeminent forecasters and what they are forecasting already is that the economy falls by about 10% this year, that unemployment reaches 12% - an increase 2.5 million people - and then in the medium-term, our economy will suffer scarring of about 3% which represents tens of billions of pounds of less economic output, and indeed he will of course also know the impact this is having on our public finances. "He will also have seen the Bank of England's comments this morning that the duration of further restrictions will increase their impact of long-term scarring on the economy." Rishi Sunak has announced that the Government's furlough scheme will be extended again beyond December. The Chancellor told MPs today that furloughed workers whose employers have been forced to close will continue to receive 80% of their salaries up to £2,500 per month until March. The scheme will remain in place beyond December 2 – when lockdown is set to end across England – and be available to employees across the entire UK. That guarantees furlough funding for tier three regions in England, as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should the devolved administrations bring in their own lockdown measures.

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He told the Commons: 'We can announce today that the furlough scheme will not be extended for one month, it will be extended until the end of March. It comes hours after the Bank of England unleashed another £150 billion of action to bolster the battered economy amid a second wave and renewed restrictions across the country. Commuters at Waterloo Station in the morning rush hour at the start of a four week national lockdown for England (Picture: PA) When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday a second lockdown for England, it was confirmed the job retention furlough scheme would be extended for an extra month. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called on the UK government to state whether the furlough scheme could be extended further if Scotland decides to follow England into a lockdown. She told MPs: 'Businesses and workers have been pleading for certainty from this Government, but the Chancellor keeps ignoring them until the last possible moment after jobs have been lost and businesses have gone bust." She added: 'Now when the lockdown was announced, the Prime Minister said furlough would be extended for a month – five hours before that scheme was due to end.

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England's second lockdown will involve bars, pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops being forced to close and people told to stay at home for the next four weeks in a bid to reverse the spread of Covid-19. Scotland is still using a regional tiered approach to restrictions, while in Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants are still shut after being closed for four weeks starting on October 16. The government is extending until the end of March the payment of furlough worth 80 per cent of salary for employees unable to work because of companies being closed by coronavirus regulations, chancellor Rishi Sunak has said. An income support grant for self-employed people, covering the period November to January, will also increase from the planned 55 per cent to 80 per cent of average profits up to £7,500. Mr Sunak confirmed that the support will be provided to all four nations of the United Kingdom equally throughout the period.

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The chancellor's announcement came as the Bank of England revealed it will pump an additional £150bn into the economy through quantitative easing to shore it up during a second English lockdown. It was due to end last weekend, but was extended to 2 December in response to Boris Johnson's announcement of a four-week English lockdown, starting today. But there was anger over the prospect that payments would then be reduced to 67 per cent of salary in companies forced to close in tier three regions, with those outside these areas having to work for at least a day a week to qualify for the new job support scheme. Mr Sunak told the House of Commons that his highest priority was "to protect jobs and livelihoods" and recognised that businesses and families wanted "certainty" over the months ahead. He said: "The government's intention is for the new health restrictions to remain only until the start of December.

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"So we can announce today that the furlough scheme will not be extended for one month, it will be extended until the end of March. "The government will continue to help pay people's wages, up to 80 per cent of the normal amount. A review in January will decide whether to increase employers' contributions, said Mr Sunak. Mr Sunak's opposite number Anneliese Dodds, however, urged him to apologise to workers already made redundant as a result of the eleventh-hour changes to the scheme and criticised the government's delay in implementing restrictions recommended by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that had "cost lives and livelihoods". Referring to ministers' previous refusal to extend the furlough scheme, she asked: "How many jobs could have been saved if this government had recognised reality and let businesses plan for the future?

She added: "Businesses and workers have been pleading for certainty from this government, but the chancellor keeps ignoring them until the last possible moment after jobs have been lost and businesses have gone bust. "The chancellor's fourth version of his winter economy plan in just six weeks. Loading Over the weeks leading up to the election, polls suggested the race was tightening, but it particularly galled the Trump campaign that the first major media outlet to call it on election night for Biden was Fox News. The following day some other outlets had still not called the state, and as the count slowly continued Trump began to whittle Biden's lead, though at the time of writing not enough for Fox nor AP to recant. Trump stewed in the White House, spending much of the early part of the day venting spleen and sharing sympathetic commentary via Twitter, lapsing into silence as news from the counting states slowed. Adopting the language of a presidential victory speech, Biden said that though he had campaigned as a Democrat he would govern as an American. By the time sun had set rumours had spread among Trump supporters that Republican votes were being disqualified for the use of sharpie pens. Sen. Mitch McConnell wants Congress to pass more COVID-19 relief before end of 2020 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he wants Congress to pass a new coronavirus relief package by the end of this year, regardless of which party wins control of the White House and the Senate in the 2020 election. Hot off his own reelection victory Tuesday night, McConnell expressed hope that Democrats and Republicans who are currently in office will come together to finally approve a fresh round of long-awaited aid, even though negotiations in recent months have failed. "Hopefully, the partisan passions that prevented us from doing another rescue package will subside with the election," he told reporters in downtown Louisville Wednesday. That's a shift from a statement he made last week, in which he suggested Congress may wait until early 2021 to approve a new round of relief as the pandemic continues to rage across America. More: Mitch McConnell on Trump-Biden race: Claiming victory isn't same as finishing vote count On Wednesday, McConnell said it's not impossible for Republicans and Democrats to work together on a challenge like COVID-19. He pointed to the roughly $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act Congress passed with bipartisan support in March as evidence. And I'm confident we will no matter who ends up running the government," he said. Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday afternoon it was "good to hear" McConnell say he wants to approve a relief package by the end of this year. "But I was glad to hear on this first day after the election that he wants to get that package passed," Beshear said. McConnell, President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all have said another stimulus package is necessary as America continues to struggle with the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration has been involved in the negotiations over a new relief package. McConnell previously pushed for a less expensive, more narrowly targeted proposal than the pricier and more expansive legislation Pelosi, Schumer or even Trump — who recently told Congress to "go big or go home" with a stimulus package — recommended.