Sunak Urged to Extend U.K. Job Support, Help Indebted Companies

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The chancellor must also devise a plan to help companies that plunged into debt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, or risk prolonging the deepest recession in living memory, the House of Commons Treasury Committee said in a report.

“The key will be assisting those businesses who, with additional support, can come through the crisis as sustainable enterprises,” said Chairman Mel Stride, a former Treasury minister. “This requires a very difficult set of judgments.”

The cross-party panel twinned its call for further help with demands for a roadmap to return the public finances to a sustainable position, underlining the fiscal tightrope Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is walking.

The chancellor has strongly indicated that tax increases will be needed to stabilize the national debt, which is now above 2 trillion pounds ($2.6 trillion) for the first time and bigger than the size of the economy. However, the Treasury Committee warned that doing so too early could “stifle” the recovery.

The furlough program, under which the government has paid as much as 80% of the wages of some 9.6 million workers, is due to be wound down altogether at the end of next month. The fear is that firms unable to resume payroll costs will be forced to shed workers, driving up unemployment.


Sunak insists the program will end as planned. His No. 2, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, doubled down on that message on Wednesday, saying continuing the program would only serve to keep people “trapped in a job that only exists because of the furlough scheme.”

So far, the initiative has the cost over 35 billion pounds. The Treasury Committee said any extension beyond October should be targeted at those who need it the most.

“A large proportion of businesses in sectors such as hospitality and leisure that are suffering most from social distancing may still have a viable long-term future at the end of October,” the panel said.

The panel said Sunak should also:

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