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Opposition leader Keir Starmer calls for extension to furlough scheme for 'sectors that desperately need it'

The Prime Minister has batted away suggestions of an extension

Keir Starmer
© Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

During today's Prime Minister's Questions, opposition leader Keir Starmer asked the Prime Minister to extend the furlough scheme for sectors and workers that "desperately need it".

The ONS (Office of National Statistics) said that the arts and entertainment sectors had been hit far harder during the pandemic than others, with over 50 per cent of employees furloughed and reserves dwindling.

Around lunchtime Labour leader Starmer said in the House of Commons: "The next major decision is on the furlough scheme. The jobs of millions are at risk, and the longer the Prime Minister delays, the more they are at risk. Will he act now and get this decision right: commit to extend the furlough scheme for those sectors and those workers that desperately need it?"

Johnson batted back saying that the government is "getting people back to work...What we would do is get people back into work through our kick-start scheme, which we are launching today. [Starmer] wants to keep people in suspended animation, we want to move this country forward."

Starmer was not impressed by Johnson's rhetoric – "This has been a wasted summer. The government should have spent it preparing for the autumn and winter. Instead they've lurched from crisis to crisis. One error or two would make sense, but when the government has notched up 12 u-turns and rising, the only conclusion is serial incompetence. That incompetence is holding Britain back."

The furlough scheme has, until now, allowed many organisations to survive with their workforces largely in-tact, but with the tapering of the scheme in sight, more and more redundancies are expected across the arts industry. Over the weekend hundreds protested outside the National and Southbank Centre following extensive job losses at the two organisations.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the scheme will stop entirely at the end of October, giving no sign that it may be extended for specific groups or industries.

The government's support package will not begin to be distributed until mid-Autumn, with larger organisations waiting until December to receive support loans.