Rishi Sunak told he is ‘making mistake’ as lockdown 4 fears surge after furlough extension

Boris Johnson grilled on protecting businesses and furlough

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And former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has also stressed the importance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson ending lockdown and getting the nation back to work. Mr Sunak is set to unveil his Spring Budget on March 3, less than a fortnight after Mr Johnson sets out his plans for taking Britain out of lockdown, which the PM set to make a statement on Monday.

I can understand why Rishi Sunak might wish to extend furlough but it is a mistake.

Ben Habib

There is already a widespread belief in Government circles that he will extend the April 30 deadline until the summer, in a move which would alarm Tory backbenchers who want the lockdown to be lifted completely by May.

Mr Habib, who is also the chairman of recently launched media channel Unlocked_UK, told Express.co.uk he would be deeply concerned if the furlough extension reports were accurate.

He said: “I can understand why Rishi Sunak might wish to extend furlough but it is a mistake.

“The Government has done one thing right extremely well and that is to get the population vaccinated fast.

“Having done that we must now get back to work.

“To delay is to cause unnecessary damage to an already greatly damaged economy.”

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With respect to Mr Johnson’s forthcoming statement, Mr Habib stressed the importance of avoiding a fourth lockdown.

He said: “The Prime Minister needs to end lockdowns and get on with the job of opening up the country.

“People’s well being and livelihoods depend on it.

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“In turn the health and wealth of the United Kingdom depends on it.”

Tory MPs who are members of the Covid Recovery Group, which is chaired by former minister Mark Harper, wrote to Mr Johnson last week to outlined their concerns.

The letter, signed by a total of 63 backbenchers, stressed: “Once all nine priority groups have been protected by the end of April, there is no justification for any legislative restrictions to remain.

“These groups represent 99 percent of Covid deaths and about 80 percent of hospitalisations.”

They added: “Covid is a serious disease and we must control it. However, just like Covid, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense social and health damage and have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods.”

The Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme scheme is a means of supporting people unable to work because for example their workplace have been forced to close, by paying them up to 80 percent of their monthly wages up to £2,500.

A report published by the Resolution Foundation yesterday suggested almost two million people have not worked for at least six months as a result of the pandemic.

The think tank called for the furlough scheme to remain in place for several months after lockdown is lifted.

Senior economist Nye Cominetti, said: “While the UK’s economic prospects are finally looking up, job insecurity remains high, particularly among those who have spent long periods not working, or who are currently furloughed.”

Speaking yesterday, a Government spokesperson refused to be drawn on the speculation.

They said: “Throughout this crisis, we have done all we can to support jobs and livelihoods, spending over £280billion in response to the pandemic.

“We will continue to invest in protecting and creating jobs through the remainder of the pandemic and through the recovery, and we will set out further details via the next stage of our plan for jobs at the upcoming Budget.”

(Additional reporting by Sam Stevenson)

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