Boris Johnson extends furlough scheme for England's second lockdown

31 October 2020, 19:22 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 09:02

By Ewan Somerville

The Government furlough scheme will be extended for the duration of England's second national lockdown, Boris Johnson has announced.

The Prime Minister apologised to businesses forced to close under the new shutdown as he said the scheme would continue, bowing to widespread public pressure.

The scheme pays 80 per cent of employees' wages, up to £2,500 per month, at businesses hard-hit by lockdown and was due to wind down on 31 October.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to shut under the new restrictions, time-limited from Thursday 5 November until 2 December. Takeaway and delivery services can continue, and supermarkets, schools and universities will stay open.

Read more: Businesses warn of jobs bloodbath in 'Halloween horror' second lockdown

Read more: What you can and can't do under England second lockdown rules

The PM said: “I’m under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure such hardship this year and I’m truly, truly sorry for that – and that’s why we’re going to extend the furlough system through November.

“The furlough system was a success in the spring, it supported people in businesses in a critical time. We will not end it, we will extend furlough until December.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has shepherded the furlough scheme, tweeted: "Following the PM’s announcement on further restrictions across the country we have decided to extended the furlough scheme for a further month covering 80% of employees’ wages."

Concerns had been raised about the more generous support system ceasing just as the public health situation with coronavirus gets worse.Ministers in Wales immediately questioned why Mr Sunak refused previous requests for the furlough scheme to be extended.

Read more: England lockdown: 'Hundreds of thousands of jobs' at risk, airlines warn

First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted: “Furlough is crucial for businesses. But Rishi Sunak said he wouldn’t extend it in Wales when we asked.

"He also said no when we asked him to bring forward the Job Support Scheme to help businesses – we even said we’d pay the difference. It’s now clear he could have said yes.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that families are being forced to face a “grim winter” because the Government did not act decisively sooner.

She said: “The extension of the furlough scheme is long overdue and necessary, but ministers must do more to protect jobs and prevent poverty.“Furlough pay must never fall below the national minimum wage.”

She stressed that a boost to Universal Credit is needed and Government must not “abandon” the self-employed.

The Treasury also announced that grants worth up to £3,000 per month are to be handed out for business premises forced which are to close.

There is also £1.1 billion that will go to local authorities for one-off payments to help them support businesses. Mortgage payment holidays will no longer end today as previously planned, the Government announced.

Borrowers who have been financially hit by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six-month holiday. Those who have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.

The Financial Conduct Authority is to set out more details on Monday.

The measures in full lasting from Thursday until 2 December:

- Stay at home unless for education, for work if you cannot work from home, for exercise, for medical reasons, to shop for food and essentials, to care for othersNon-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed

- Click and collect can continue and essential shops such as supermarkets will remain open. Bars, pubs and restaurants must stay closed except for delivery or take-away services

- Hairdressers and beauty salons will close

- Schools, colleges and universities will all remain open

- Childminders and nurseries will stay open and childcare bubbles, where for example a grandparent provides childcare while a parent works, will be able to continue. After-school clubs and sports clubs will be suspended.

- People are advised not to travel unless for essential reasons. People can travel for work. Anyone on holiday will be allowed to return to the UK.

More to follow...