- A €580 million package to train those affected by the end of “partial unemployment”
On Monday, the UK government announced a new package to support workers affected by the epidemic, after it was criticized for ending a support plan that helped save millions of jobs.
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce a £500m package ($680m, 580m) to retrain older and younger workers affected by the end of the unemployment program.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government spent around £70 billion to pay most of the wages of workers forced to stay at home, helping to keep unemployment rates relatively low.
But Sunak announced the end of the plan on Thursday and would also cancel the increase in weekly benefits for the lowest-paid workers.
He stresses that it is time to move to long-term support, with opposition parties and activists rejecting those who suggest the move will increase unemployment for many.
“At the beginning of this crisis, I promised to do everything necessary and I am ready to reaffirm this promise now that we are out of the crisis,” Sunak will say in his speech at the Conservative Party’s annual conference.
The first phase of his plan protected 11 million jobs, he said, and Britain is now recovering “in a way that is among the strongest and fastest of all the major economies in the world.”
“But the work isn’t done yet and I want to make sure our economy is ready for the future, which means giving people the support and skills they need to work and get on with their lives” , says Sunak.
But protesters at the conference in Manchester (north-west England) accused the Conservatives of abandoning the poor.
Official data from last week showed that the UK economy recovered more strongly than expected in the second quarter of the year.
However, individual indicators showed a slowdown in growth, at a time when the country is suffering from a supply chain crisis and pressure from global inflation, leading to a significant rise in fuel prices.
The government is trying to cope with the rush of consumers to buy fuel at the stations due to the shortage of truck drivers, and has been forced to enlist the help of the military.
Businesses blame the government’s crackdown on Brexit, which has blocked the flow of workers from Eastern Europe, but ministers blame the Covid pandemic.
In a message at the conference to conservative supporters, Johnson pledged to continue with his post-Covid recovery plan to “build better” on infrastructure and climate change.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, the prime minister refused to return Britain to a “broken” pre-Brexit economy that he believed relied too much on cheap foreign labour.
“What I can’t do in all these sectors is just go back to the old, exhausted, failed model and rely on unregulated migration of low-paid people,” he said. “So, yes, there will be a period of adjustment” to the new situation, he added.
Johnson and Sunak are also under pressure from the Conservative right to raise the UK tax burden, in part to deal with a crisis in the elderly care sector.
The prime minister emphasized that “no one is more and more enthusiastically opposed to the unjustified tax increase, but we were dealing with an epidemic at a level that this country has experienced in our days and not much before”.
“If I can avoid that, I don’t want to raise taxes again, certainly not, and neither does Rishi Sunak,” he told the BBC.
However, many analysts believe that Sunak will do this right after he carries out a fiscal review in late October, as the Treasury is trying hard to rebalance the economy after massive spending amid the pandemic.