UK extends COVID furlough programme until end of April

FILE PHOTO: A person looks at adverts in the window of a job agency in London
FILE PHOTO: A person looks at the adverts in the window of a job agency in London, Britain October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

December 17, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) -British finance minister Rishi Sunak announced on Thursday that he would extend a job support programme by another month until the end of April, and that businesses would be able to get new COVID loans until the end of March.

The news came after Sunak said he would set out longer-term plans at an annual budget on March 3, as he seeks to reduce public borrowing on track to reach 400 billion pounds this year.

Britain’s government has supported almost 10 million jobs since the start of the pandemic at a cost of 46.4 billion pounds ($63 billion) so far, and has given banks guarantees on 68 billion pounds of lending to businesses which have lost money due to COVID.

The Bank of England estimates Britain’s economy shrank by 11% this year, the biggest fall since modern records began.

The loan guarantee scheme had been due to end on Jan. 31, while the job retention programme was due to end on March 31.

Sunak has faced criticism for not announcing previous extensions to the furlough programme until shortly before it was due to expire, by which point some employers had already made staff redundant.

($1 = 0.7358 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Michael Holden and Andy Bruce)