Covid-19: tens of thousands of Buckinghamshire workers get government help

Tens of thousands of people in Buckinghamshire have been helped through government schemes to protect jobs during the Covid-19 crisis, new figures reveal.

Friday, 12th June 2020, 9:17 am
Updated Friday, 12th June 2020, 9:18 am
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in March to support firms struggling with the impact of the virus.

Union and business bodies say the financial support provided during the pandemic has been an essential lifeline for vulnerable firms and workers.

But they have warned that more protection will be needed in the months ahead.

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs show around 63,000 claims were made to furlough jobs in Buckinghamshire by the end of May.

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That is equivalent to 1,158 in every 10,000 of the local population, the Office for National Statistics’s latest population estimates show.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in March to support firms struggling with the impact of the virus.

It covers up to 80% of an employee’s salary, capped at £2,500 a month per worker.

Across the South East, 1 million jobs were furloughed by the end of May.

The latest UK-wide figure stood at 8.9 million as of June 7, amounting to £19.6 billion in payments.

The support will run until the end of October, with flexible furloughing starting in July, whereby employers will cover staffing costs for part-time work while claiming for the rest of their pay packet from the Government.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady said the furlough scheme has been a “vital lifeline” but added that jobs need to be protected as it is scaled back.

She added: "That's why the TUC is calling on government to set up a national recovery council with unions and employers.

“This would help support companies and workers in the challenging times ahead.

"We also need a jobs guarantee scheme for young workers, who are most at risk of being made redundant and scarred by unemployment."

Matthew Fell, UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, said firms understood the programme needed to be wound up at some point.

He added: “However, previously viable firms not able to open until later, particularly in leisure, hospitality and the creative industries, may need further assistance in the coming months.”

Separate figures show around 21,300 people in Buckinghamshire applied to the Self-employment Income Support Scheme by the end of May.

From May 13, eligible self-employed workers could claim a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits for a three-month period, limited to £7,500.

Claims made by people in Buckinghamshire amounted to £70.3 million, or £3,300 per person on average, with 69% of those thought to be eligible in the area having asked for cash.

Self-employed workers can claim a second and final grant in August, lowered to 70% of profits and capped at £6,570.

Across the UK, 2.6 million people who work for themselves had applied by June 7.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-employed said there were still 1.6 million people, including freelancers working through limited companies and the newly self-employed, who could not access the support.

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “We urge the Government to do more for these groups, many of whom still have no sign of work coming in.”

Mr Sunak said: “Our unprecedented coronavirus support schemes are protecting millions of vital jobs and businesses across the whole of the UK – and will help ensure we recover from this outbreak as swiftly as possible.

“We have extended both schemes so they will continue to provide measured support across the UK as we start to reopen the economy.”