Furlough scheme should be extended & Universal Credit boost to millions more, says top Tory


THE FURLOUGH scheme paying millions of people’s wages should be extended and the Universal Credit top-up up given to others on benefits too, a top Tory has said.

Stephen Crabb, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, became the first high profile Tory MP to call for the Government to carry on paying the wages of some people beyond the October cut-off date.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to extend the furlough scheme

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson have stressed that the scheme must wind up at the end of next month.

At the moment the state is paying millions of workers 80 per cent of their salaries – up to a total of £2,500 a month – which is costing the taxpayer billions.

From today employers are having to pay more of their employees wage costs, and that will step up to 20 per cent from next month.

Writing for HuffPost UK Mr Crabb said ministers should “look at targeted extensions to the furlough scheme beyond October” like Germany has done.

They are extending their scheme for another 12 months – calls backed by Scots boss Nicola Sturgeon today too.

He added: “A definitive end point was seen as vital for getting the country back to work. But there are still many firms in different sectors that simply cannot operate in the current scenario.”

Nightclubs, many bars and restaurants are still shut.

And in lockdown areas some places like bowling alleys and casinos have still not been allowed to open their doors again since the pandemic.

Mr Crabb said: “Some of these sectors are of enormous strategic importance to the UK. With aerospace, for example, there is a real danger that the unwinding of furlough will lead to the loss of thousands more high value jobs and a permanent dissipation of skills and expertise.”

Labour has also called on the Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond October amid fears of thousands more job losses.

But the Chancellor is to focus on more job-creation and giving firms bonuses of £1000 if they keep workers on until the new year.

A No10 spokesperson said today: “We can’t sustain this situation indefinitely.

“The end of the furlough scheme is not the end of our support for jobs.”

Mr Crabb also called on ministers to keep the £20 a month uplift to Universal Credit which was given to help people deal with the coronavirus crisis.

And he said it should be given to Brits on other benefits too like those claiming tax credits or ESA.

The ex-DWP boss said: “Removing it next spring, as currently planned, will amount to a painful cut in income for many people still struggling to come to terms with the loss of their jobs and who have found the transition from furlough to benefits a very hard landing indeed.

“In parallel, the personal allowance of so-called legacy benefits like JSA, ESA and IS should be raised to match the UC increase.

“This is particularly important for those with disabilities, and their carers, who make up most of the people remaining on these benefits. It’s just not right that some of the most vulnerable people have not seen equivalent protection.”

The call comes as footballer Marcus Rashford launched a fresh campaign to end food poverty today.

The England striker was successful in campaigning for free school meal vouchers to be provided to pupils over the summer period.

And now the Manchester United star – is working with charities and politicians to force more change.

In a letter to MPs, Rashford said the objective is to “see sufficient funds from the Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review allocated to implementing these without delay”.

The first aim is the expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5million 7-16-year-olds.

The second is the expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1million children.

Marcus Rashford is starting a new campaign to tackle food poverty

And the third goal is increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week, currently at £3.10, and expanding into all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.

The Government has said it will carefully consider Marcus Rashford’s proposals for change.