The government of Wales and the Mayor of Manchester have strongly criticised the Chancellor of the Exchequer for only announcing an extension to furlough after England went into full lockdown.
A number of ministers in the Welsh Government and Mayor Andy Burnham commented that furlough was refused when Wales and Manchester were in lockdown but was now being rolled out to help the South of England.
“Following the PM’s announcement on further restrictions across the country we have decided to extended the furlough scheme for a further month covering 80% of employees’ wages,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak said yesterday.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said that “furlough is crucial for businesses” but that “Rishi Sunak said he wouldn’t extend it in Wales when we asked”.
“He also said no when we asked him to bring forward the Job Support Scheme to help businesses – we even said we’d pay the difference. It’s now clear he could have said yes,” he said.
Mayor Andy Burnham also said in response to Rishi Sunak’s announcement that “when we asked you to do that for the lowest-paid people in the North, you refused. People here will remember that”.
He later retweeted a message that had edited Rishi Sunak’s announcement image from ‘We Stand Together’ to ‘now that it affects the south, We Stand Together’.
Wales’ Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles was also critical of the timing of the move.
“This should have been extended a long time ago,” he said. “And if you believe ‘We Stand Together’ – why didn’t you act when it was business and workers in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England who were looking for the support?”
Liberal Democrat Education Minister Kirsty Williams also said that “there wasn’t much standing together when the Welsh, Northern Irish, Scots and those in the North of England needed and asked for this help.”
The furlough scheme will be extended to support businesses that have to close for a month under the second national lockdown in England.
Welsh businesses will be able to reopen on November 9, meaning that they will have a limited opportunity to take advantage of the furlough.
Boris Johnson confirmed that the Government will pay 80% of wages of people who will be out of work as a result of the new measures in England.
The PM announced at a press conference on Saturday evening that the lockdown wil begin in England on Thursday.
Schools and essential shops will remain open but all other businesses, including pubs and restaurants, will have to close until at least December 2, when the country will go back into a tiered system.
Wales has been in a ‘fire break’ lockdown since Friday 23 October. Mark Drakeford said that Wales would come out of the lockdown on 9 November whatever happened in England.
He would discuss border restrictions with his cabinet over the weekend, he said.