Don’t get me wrong, the Chancellor did the right thing by extending the furlough scheme to March and this announcement was welcome, if not unexpected.
After all, when people’s livelihoods are at stake through no fault of their own the right level of support must be there to help them when they need it.
When the Prime Minister announced a national lockdown, he said that the furlough scheme would be extended by four weeks, just five hours before it was due to end on October 31. Two days later, there was a last-minute change to the self-employment scheme.
And now there are even more changes—the Chancellor’s fourth version of his winter economy plan in just a matter of weeks.
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The Chancellor can change his mind at the drop of a hat, but businesses cannot.
Here in the North East, unemployment continues to rise and our region has the unwanted position of having the highest rates of joblessness in the UK.
Of course, the pandemic is far from over and the government had no choice but to extend the furlough scheme or we would have seen catastrophic redundancies that will severely damage our economy to such an extent that it may never recover.
In September, I asked the Prime Minister during Prime Minister’s Questions, to extend the furlough scheme but he arrogantly refused to extend it further. In the weeks and months that followed, the government refused to budge.
I didn’t call on the furlough scheme to be indefinite, but this public health crisis is far from over, especially with so many businesses being ordered to close, and many more not being able to operate as normal. We need a Chancellor who is in front of the problems, not one who is always a step behind.
Myself and my Labour colleagues in Parliament will keep on holding the government to account by fighting for jobs, supporting workers and backing businesses for a better future.