Burnham's concerns over jobs retention scheme not doing enough for staff at risk of redundancy
Reporter: Niall Griffiths
Date published: 15 July 2020
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham
Firms rewarded for bringing furloughed employees back into the workplace should do more for those more at risk of redundancy, says Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
The government will pay employers £1,000 for each worker that is kept on until at least January next year as part of a £9bn job retention bonus scheme.
But even the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has admitted that there will be a ‘dead weight’ cost to his plans, meaning money will go to companies that had no intention of letting staff go.
Mr Burnham has raised concerns that the funds could be better spent in the Greater Manchester and Liverpool city regions, where an estimated 484,000 people are on furlough.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Liverpool regional mayor Steve Rotheram, he said: “Lets say 60 per cent of people come back from furlough and attract that payment.
“That would be £250m in our city regions spent on people that were going to come back anyway.
“We would argue that is not the best use of a quarter of a billion pounds in the north west of England right now.”
Mr Burnham welcomed the scheme when it was announced last Wednesday, but suggested it should be controlled by local government as ‘we know our communities best’.
This week he made further calls on the chancellor to consider a voluntary scheme where firms could put the bonus towards helping staff they are more likely to let go permanently.
The money would go into a fund controlled by combined authorities to support employment support schemes like EmployGM, which is helping those worried about job security find new opportunities in Greater Manchester.
Mr Burnham said: “That would be a better way of using this money, focusing on people unlikely to keep their job rather than supporting companies who are already bringing them back.”
Mr Sunak has already ruled out extending the furlough scheme past October as it would be ‘just as irresponsible’ as ending the scheme overnight in June.
He said: “Leaving the furlough scheme open forever gives people false hope that it will always be possible to return to the jobs they had before.
“And the longer people are on furlough, the more likely it is their skills could fade, and they will find it harder to get new opportunities.”
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