When Boris Johnson announced further lockdown restrictions this week, it was inevitable that Rishi Sunak would again splash taxpayers’ cash. The Chancellor duly delivered this afternoon. But one thing is clear: slowly but surely Sunak is turning the taps off.
The Job Support Scheme, which replaces the furlough scheme, means the government will pay up to 22 per cent of workers’ wages. VAT cuts in hospitality and tourism – two sectors which will inevitably be hit hard by the new rules – were also extended. And firms that took government loans will have more time to pay them back. There is some help, too, for the self employed: a government grant will give those who are earning less than usual up to 20 per cent of their trading profits.
Yet while these announcements appear generous, compared to what came before they are a clear sign that the onus is shifting towards businesses – not the government – footing the bill. The furlough scheme paid 80 per cent of a worker’s take-home pay; while the original self-employed grant funded eight pounds in every ten someone would have expected to earn. Clearly the new announcements fall far short of that level of generosity.
In his statement, Sunak spoke of ‘collective responsibility paid by all’ and told the Commons:
‘I cannot save every business. I cannot save every job. No Chancellor could.’
With businesses now footing more of the bill for their workers, there will be some hard decisions ahead for companies. It seems all but certain more people – particularly those who have been furloughed – are now likely to lose their jobs.