Daily Express

Chancellor Rishi’s big birthday gift to nation


CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak knows that if the pandemic causes long-term damage to the health of the economy, the human cost will be catastroph­ic. Yesterday he took the brave and bold step of extending to October the furlough deal under which workers placed on leave get 80 per cent of their monthly wages, though from August firms will have to contribute.

The payments of up to £2,500 are a true lifeline for families who would crash into poverty if breadwinne­rs lose jobs.

Seven-and-a-half million people are in the scheme – a quarter of all workers – which requires a colossal but justified investment of £14billion a month. The nation would pay a truly terrible price if millions of people were stripped of their livelihood­s and suffered years of physical and mental distress.

There was speculatio­n the subsidy would be cut to 60 per cent of wages but that could trigger waves of redundanci­es and shred confidence with horrendous consequenc­es for both jobless individual­s and the country.

The furlough scheme has prevented a social disaster by ensuring households retain vital spending power. This not only allows them to meet basic needs, but it also gives the economy the chance to flame back into life as lockdown is eased.

The Chancellor must choreograp­h the economic equivalent of the moon landing in the months ahead as they oversee the transition of employees out of the ranks of the furloughed and back into the workforce.

Mr Sunak turned 40 yesterday but will have had scant time for opening cards and presents. Instead, he gave millions of people the precious gift of peace of mind and bought UK Plc time in which to plot our path to recovery.

This national crisis is far from wrapped up but Mr Sunak has so far displayed wisdom and decisivene­ss. The whole nation will wish him nothing but success in the next stage of his crucial mission.

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