Rishi Sunak under pressure to extend furlough past lockdown

Rishi Sunak is being pressured into committing to making furlough scheme money available past the end of the second lockdown, it has been claimed.

Sources close to the chancellor say he is being ‘bounced’ into signing up to make more money available to all parts of the UK, in case further restrictions are needed in future.

The Government has faced criticism from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after refusing to extend the scheme to support people living under lockdowns.

It only decided to offer to pay 80% of people’s wages once another lockdown was announced in England.

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Yesterday Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes claimed the Mr Sunak has repeatedly refused to ‘provide clarity once and for all’ on whether furlough cash will be available if the country decides on a second lockdown.

Currently Scotland is operating under a five tier local lockdown system, with different areas living under different rules.

Ms Forbes said she has made four requests for a meeting with either Mr Sunak or Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay since the UK Government announced the extension of the furlough scheme on Saturday evening.

She she told MSPs at Holyrood these requests have not been granted.

Boris Johnson reportedly believes furlough money should be available in the future and is trying to convince his Chancellor to offer the funds.

A Government source told The Times: ‘If regions have to go into lockdown in future, should they get the full 80 per cent wage subsidy? 

‘The prime minister’s position on this is robust. The furlough scheme will be available in all parts of the UK.’

Sources said that while the details were still being refined, the Chancellor wanted the ‘mechanics ironed out’ before it was brought to the public. 

On Monday, Boris Johnson pledged to extendthe furlough scheme to December 2 to help businesses and their staff that will suffer due to the second lockdown.

He said: ‘That’s why we are going to extend the furlough system through November. 

‘The furlough scheme was a success in the spring and supported people in businesses in a critical time. We will not end it, we will extend furlough until December.’

The extended furlough scheme will see employees receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Prime Minister ‘appears to have agreed’ that access to the furlough scheme would be available in Scotland after December 2, if it was required.

But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick seemed to row back on that commitment, saying it would be a ‘decision the Chancellor will have to make at the time’.

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