Rishi Sunak issues worrying blow to furloughed workers after coronavirus budget speech

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned jobs are at risk unless economic activity returns to normal.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:53 pm

He told Sky News: "We've moved through the acute phase of the crisis where large swathes of the economy were closed. We're now fortunately able to safely reopen parts of our economy, that's the most important thing that we can do to get things going.

"But we won't know the exact shape of that recovery for a little while - how will people respond to the new freedoms of being able to go out and about again. We have to rediscover behaviours that we've essentially unlearned over the last few months.

"But unless activity returns to normal, those jobs are at risk of going which is why we acted in the way that we did."

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Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Photo by MATT DUNHAM/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the Chancellor has given "a lot of excuses" for not expanding economic recovery schemes to support more people.

She told BBC Breakfast: "Two things need to change, first of all we shouldn't still be having this 'computer says no' response from the Chancellor.

"Whenever these matters have been raised he said there is a need for speed when the different systems were set up, the furlough scheme and the self-employed scheme, that you can't possibly include everyone at the beginning and he repeated that again yesterday.

"I've said to him and Labour said back to him that these systems have been created now, there is more scope in the system to be fitting them to people's circumstances."

She added: "It's a complicated area but it's not beyond the wit of man to sort out solutions to this."

The Chancellor said he was "anxious" about the state of the economy, and that the UK was "entering into a very significant recession".

"We acted at the beginning of this crisis to protect as many businesses and jobs as we could, with initiatives like the furlough scheme and the unprecedented support that we have provided to business.

"We did that so that when we emerged from the other side of this crisis we could bounce back as strongly as possible.

"Now that we're there we want to try and make that recovery as strong as it could be, which is why having people out and about, back in restaurants, moving house, renovating homes, installing energy efficiency measures in homes."

Asked if everyone who has been furloughed will go back to work, he said: "No. I've been very clear that we are not going to be able to protect every single job and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise.

"There are going to be difficult times ahead and... there are forecasts for people predicting significant levels of unemployment. That weighs very heavily on me."