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Rishi Sunak says it ‘breaks his heart’ to see job losses and businesses shutting due to coronavirus

Rishi Sunak says it ‘breaks his heart’ to see job losses and businesses shutting due to coronavirus

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was speaking about the extension to the furlough scheme (BBC)

4 min read

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said it “breaks my heart” to see jobs being lost and businesses shutting due to the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

The Chancellor - who on Tuesday unveiled a wide-ranging extension to the Government's coronavirus furlough scheme - also hinted that the UK is already seeing the effects of a coming recession.

And he revealed he is "looking at the best thing to do" with a seperate Treasury scheme to help the self-employed.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr said: "We already know that many people have lost their jobs and it breaks my heart. 

"We've seen what's happening with Universal Credit claims already. This is not something that we're going to wait to see; it's already happening.

“There are already businesses that are shutting. There are already people who have lost their jobs. And as I said, that's heartbreaking to me and that's why I'm working night and day to limit the amount of job losses.”

The Chanecellor added: “Every job that we can save, whether it's through the furlough scheme or because we gave a cash grant to a business that can then pay that person for a bit, is a job that we have helped to preserve for the future, it’s a family that's got more security.

“Is it going to be difficult? Of course, it's going to be difficult, but there’s also things that we're doing are going to make a real difference.”

The comments come after Mr Sunak announced an extension to the furloughing scheme until the end of October, and revealed that the unprecedented guarantee is currently costing the Treasury around £8billion per month to subsidise the wages of 7.5million workers.

The Chancellor said: "This is an expensive scheme and I've said that point before.

"But I also believe it's absolutely the right thing to do. 

“And what's very clear to me is that the cost of not doing this for society, for our economy, for our country would be far higher.

"And I am simply not going to give up on all these people - the 7 million people that we talked about - I want to provide as much support as I can to ensure that they have those jobs to go back to at the end of this."

He was also asked about the equivalent scheme for the self-employed, which will open for claims on Wednesday and allows them to ask for a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits, up to £7,500.

No extension for the scheme has so far been announced, and Mr Sunak said: "We're looking at the best thing to do."

“The reason for that is slightly different in that many of those self-employed people are not in sectors which are necessarily closed or have an employer who has reduced their hours.”

SHARMA: WORK TOGETHER

Mr Sunak's comments came as Business Secretary Alok Sharma used the daily Downing Street press conference to talk up the Government's measures to support the economy.

And he urged businesses to comply with new safety guidance aimed at encouraging a phased return-to-work.

“Throughout this pandemic I have been struck by the way people have looked out for one another," the Cabinet minister said.

"These measures are produced in that spirit: So to employers I say use this support and guidance to know you’re doing the right thing and work with your unions and workers to keep each other safe.

"And to workers I say: we are looking out for you.

"We want you to feel confident that you are financially supported and returning to a safe workplace because in this time, like no other, we all need to work together safely as we rebuild our economy.”

The new back-to-work guidance orders firms to work with staff and trade unions on risk assessments, and consider a host of changes including reduced entrances, staggered start times and reconfigured offices to comply with social distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Mr Sharma said: "If an employee feels unsafe they should talk to their employer.

"And if that doesn’t produce a result they should of course contact the Health and Safety Executive or indeed their local authority.

"And we have made sure that we are providing additional funding to the HSE for precisely that reason.”

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