Covid-19: UK to pick up wage bill for 6 more months


After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new curbs to last about six months, chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday provided another multi-billion-pound package that includes the exchequer picking up parts of the wage bill of all employees until April 2021.

The package includes extension of VAT relief, loans to struggling companies and extension of grants to the self-employed. Sunak said he could not ensure that every job is protected, but offered a lifeline to millions of people on furlough and to companies facing severe downturn.

The government has been paying much of the wage bill of employees since April, which was due to end in October. But the recent surge in cases and the new curbs to last about six months prompted demands for extension of the schemes.

Sunak said in a statement to the House of Commons: “The resurgence of the virus, and the measures we need to take in response, pose a threat to our fragile economic recovery…Our approach to the next phase of support must be different to that which came before”.

“The primary goal of our economic policy remains unchanged – to support people’s jobs – but the way we achieve that must evolve”. Sunak cancelled the annual winter budget due in October after making a series of Covid-influenced mini-budget statements in recent months.

The economic plans announced so far amount to over £190 billion of support for people, businesses and public services – including paying the wages of nearly 12 million people, supporting over a million businesses through grants, loans and rates cuts.

Sunak said: “Our lives can no longer be put on hold…We find meaning and hope through our friends and family, through our work, through our community. People were not wrong for wanting that meaning, for striving towards normality, and nor was the government wrong to want this for them.”

“(The) truth is the responsibility for defeating Coronavirus cannot be held by government alone. It is a collective responsibility, shared by all. Because the cost is paid by all. We have so often spoken about this virus in terms of lives lost. But the price our country is paying is wider than that”, he added.

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