UNLEASHED: THE NEW BATTLE FOR BRITAIN
● Boris closes ALL pubs, restaurants, cafes and cinemas in fightback ● Government vows to pay wages of workers for the first time EVER
BRITAIN was handed a lifeline in the battle against coronavirus last night as the Government took the historic step of paying the wages of millions of workers in a colossal new rescue package.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak effectively signed a blank cheque to the nation and Boris Johnson shut all pubs as the economic fallout from the deadly
outbreak escalates. Mr Sunak said the Government will cover 80 per cent of salaries up to a ceiling of £2,500 a month – equivalent to the UK average wage of £30,000 a year.
And he stressed that there will be “no limit” on the total cost.
The unprecedented step came as the Prime Minister ordered all pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK to close their doors last night in a dramatic national lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Mr Johnson said that social premises, including theatres, cinemas, gyms and sports centres, must shut “as soon as they reasonably can” and not reopen until further notice.
The dramatic announcements came as the death toll due to coronavirus in the UK reached 177, with 40 further fatalities the biggest daily number so far. Mr Sunak said the “coronavirus job retention scheme” will be up and running by the end of next month and will be backdated to March 1.
It will initially last for three months but could be extended.
He said it would be made available for staff who are currently not working as a result of the economic turmoil caused by the outbreak, but who remain on their employers’ payroll.
To help the thousands who have already lost their jobs since the outbreak began, Universal Credit and working tax credit payments will also increase by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, the Chancellor said.
Self-employed people will also be able to claim Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay, which is currently £94.25 a week.
Some £30billion of VAT bills for the next quarter will be deferred, and there will be a £7billion boost to welfare to “strengthen the safety net”.
Renters will also get a £1billion boost with housing benefits rising.
Mr Sunak said: “For the first time in our history the Government is going to step in and help pay people’s wages.”
Standing alongside the PM at a press conference in Downing Street, Mr Sunak made a direct appeal to businesses not to sack people.
He added: “The Government is doing its best to stand behind you and I am asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers.”
The astonishing rescue package, which will last an initial three months and be financed by borrowing, was on an even bigger scale than many had expected.
There are thought to be more than eight million workers in sectors that are directly affected. If the Government pays out the maximum rate to five million, it would cost £12.5billion a month.
If the situation continues for a year, as government experts say is likely, that could cost £150billion – roughly equivalent to the NHS budget for the year. Mr Sunak added: “We’re setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer in the country small or large, charitable or non-profit, will be eligible for the scheme.
“Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off.
“Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – that’s just above the median income.”
There have been warnings that without action, GDP could be slashed by a fifth and a million could lose their jobs within months, with many more to follow, after “social distancing” measures brought the economy to a halt.
Unveiling the historic move, Mr
Sunak said the next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred until the end of June in a cash injection of £30billion.
Mr Sunak said: “To help businesses pay people and keep them in work, I’m deferring the next quarter of VAT payments. That means no business will pay any VAT from now until the end of June.
“And you’ll have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills. That’s a direct injection of over £30billion of cash to businesses equivalent to 1.5 per cent of GDP.
“I’m strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impact of coronavirus.
“That means that self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees.
“Taken together, I’m announcing nearly £7billion of extra support through the welfare system to strengthen the safety net and protect people’s incomes.”
The British Chambers of Commerce said the new measures were a “lifeline” to businesses.
Director General Dr Adam Marshall said: “Businesses will welcome the scale of the Government’s latest response, as well as the specific support it is offering to some of the worst-affected parts of our economy.”
‘For the first time in our history the Government will step in and help to pay people’s wages’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes his point with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries
Adam Marshall praised Government response
Chancellor Rishi Sunak spells out his rescue package for the nation’s workforce yesterday