UK mulling more help for businesses to alleviate impact of COVID-19

2021-01-28 12:04:57

  Mounted police on Carnaby Street as shops remain closed under Tier 4 restrictions, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London on Dec 26, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] The man who holds the United Kingdom's purse strings has warned lawmakers within his own party that bailouts they are demanding for pandemic-damaged businesses could cost 30 billion pounds ($41 billion). Instead of agreeing to them, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told rank-and-file Conservative Party members of Parliament he will offer additional economic support that he deems appropriate. He said the extra help will be unveiled in his upcoming budget on March 3, which will contain his spending priorities for period ahead. The Reuters news agency said Sunak was eager to assure worried MPs he is well aware of the challenges companies are facing because of the lockdown introduced on Jan 5 to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus. "We have said that we will review all our economic measures in place to support people through coronavirus at the upcoming budget in the first week of March," Sunak said in Parliament on Tuesday, after a lawmaker urged him not to let businesses go bust now, after the government had invested so much in keeping them going throughout the pandemic. ITV News noted that, with unemployment in the UK at a four-year high because of pandemic-induced business failures, the economy could be heading for choppy waters. Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics this week show almost 830,000 employees have been let go since the pandemic began, pushing the unemployment rate up to 5 percent. Backbench Conservative Party MPs had said the government should respond by introducing additional financial support for companies, including corporate tax breaks and help for the self-employed. The BBC reported Sunak has said he also wants to protect young workers, who have been disproportionately affected by job losses during the pandemic. "I've always said my priority through this crisis is to protect, support, and create as many jobs as possible, and young people in particular have been at the forefront of my mind," he told the broadcaster. "We know that they're most likely to work in affected sectors, they're twice as likely to be furloughed, and the ones leaving college are entering a really difficult labor market." He said the government has, therefore, funded more training, skills development, and bonuses for apprenticeships. The Independent newspaper reported on Wednesday that around 900,000 small companies could go out of business if the government ends support programs that are already up and running. The warning about the potential failures and their impact on around 2.5 million workers is contained in a new study conducted by the London School of Economics that says the nation could be facing "a cruel spring of bankruptcy" if it does not extend initiatives that are currently slated to end in March and April.