Britain boosts £200 billion job spending plan as England locks down

Increased support for self-employed is also part of the package

British finance minister Rishi Sunak further ramped up his £200 billion economic rescue programme on Thursday as England went into a tough new coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Sunak extended the government’s costly coronavirus furlough scheme, which provides 80 per cent of the pay of temporarily laid-off workers, until the end of March, and said he would provide billions of pounds of other jobs support.

“It’s clear the economic effects are much longer lasting for businesses than the duration of any restrictions, which is why we have decided to go further with our support,” Mr Sunak told parliament.

Earlier on Thursday, the Bank of England said it was increasing the size of its government bond purchases by a further £150 billion, helping the government to fund the surge in public spending.


As well as the furlough extension, Mr Sunak increased support for self-employed people and raised guaranteed funding for the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by £2 billion to £16 billion.

The furlough policy will be reviewed in January to see whether employers can increase their contributions from their current level of 5 per cent of total employment costs, or about £70 per employee per month.

Mr Sunak's plans to scale back Britain's job support were blown off course last weekend when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a month-long lockdown for many people and businesses in England.

Mr Sunak said on Saturday he was extending the furlough scheme for a month to soften the hit of the new lockdown.

The scheme supported nearly 9 million jobs at one point and had been forecast to cost around £52 billion over its eight-month lifespan, before the latest extensions.

The finance ministry said evidence from the first lockdown showed that the economic effects were much longer lasting for businesses than the duration of restrictions.

The opposition Labour Party said Sunak had moved too slowly to increase protection for workers who face a sharp rise in unemployment over the coming months. – Reuters