Labour warns of Covid 'cliff edge' as financial support deadlines near

2 January 2021, 06:59 | Updated: 2 January 2021, 09:24

File photo: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street
File photo: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Labour has warned that Britons are facing a Covid "cliff edge" as the deadlines for ending fiscal support and protection approach.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the toxic cocktail of a lack of savings mixed with the economic downturn caused by coronavirus meant 2021 could spell "financial ruin" for many.

The Opposition party flagged that there are a host of looming deadlines - including the end of the eviction ban on January 11, mortgage holidays on the final day of January, and the extended furlough scheme on April 30 - which they said could spell disaster for British families.

Read more: All London primary schools to stay closed in Government U-turn

The window for applying for Government-backed loan schemes is set to shut on March 31 and ministers plan to cut £20 per week from Universal Credit as of April 6, Labour said.

The party said its own analysis had shown the UK entered the pandemic with one of the lowest savings rates in the developed world, with data showing that UK households saved £3,055 less than the average across other economies in the G7 group of nations in 2019.

According to Labour, a quarter of families had less than £100 in savings when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

The revelation comes as the impact of coronavirus restrictions was found to have cost more than 1.3 million jobs, while millions of self-employed people have been excluded from Treasury support since the crisis began.

Ms Dodds said: "The irresponsible decisions taken by the Conservatives over the last decade left many UK households without a penny in the bank going into this crisis.

"When Covid hit, they had nothing to fall back on - and now some are teetering on the brink of financial ruin as several Covid support cliff edges loom.

"The Chancellor's chaotic, last-minute approach to this crisis plunged the UK into the worst downturn of any major economy, but it seems he hasn't learned any lessons.

"Families up and down the country will continue to suffer if he doesn't fix Britain's broken safety net and tackle the root causes of income insecurity across our country."

The shadow cabinet member's warning came as Boris Johnson told the public that the "bitter economic consequences" of rules designed to control the spread of coronavirus meant more people would "continue to lose their jobs - through absolutely no fault of their own".

In an article in the Telegraph, the Prime Minister vowed to "continue with our measures to help business and protect jobs and livelihoods" in the new year.

A Treasury spokesman said: "As the Bank of England and others have said, the Chancellor's £280 billion support package has protected the jobs and incomes of millions of people and helped thousands of businesses to stay afloat.

"We have always adapted to the circumstances, and the extension of vital schemes such as furlough, self-employment support and business loans have given people and companies the certainty they need right up until the end of April.

"And our Plan for Jobs will protect, support and create jobs in every part of the country, giving businesses the confidence to retain and hire.

"We remain steadfast in our commitment to do whatever it takes to see the UK through this pandemic."