Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has urged newly elected Tory MPs to “do the right thing” by voting to extend the furlough scheme after it was revealed that over 500,000 jobs are at risk in their constituencies.
According to new analysis by the Labour Party, 650,000 employees were still on the job retention scheme in mid-August across the 107 seats won by the Conservatives at the last general election.
The research also shows that nearly 400,000 people in these constituencies were still being assisted through the government’s self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) by the end of July.
Despite many sectors being unable to operate at full capacity due to coronavirus restrictions, the government will be completely withdrawing all wage support when the furlough scheme ends in October.
Labour has suggested that the impact of this decision, which it has already described as a “historic mistake”, could be avoided if new Conservative MPs were willing to force the Chancellor into a U-turn.
The party will bring forward a parliamentary motion on Wednesday that calls for a targeted extension of furlough to cover sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, such as manufacturing and tourism, and to help workers in local lockdown areas.
Anneliese Dodds said: “For months, the Chancellor has ignored calls from businesses, trade unions, and the devolved governments to abandon his disastrous one-size-fits-all withdrawal of wage support across the entire economy.
“Unless he changes course now, over half a million jobs could go in constituencies represented by those Conservative MPs who entered parliament for the first time less than a year ago.
“It’s clear the Chancellor is too stubborn to admit he’s got this wrong. The 2019 Tory intake has the power to force a U-turn on the furlough cliff-edge before it’s too late for the people they represent.
“They should do the right thing and vote to extend income support for jobs and businesses in the hardest-hit sectors and areas under local restrictions. If they don’t, sectors vital to the UK’s economic recovery such as highly-skilled manufacturing and the creative industries will suffer.”
The data, taken from HMRC, shows that 44% of all workers furloughed when the scheme began in March were still receiving government support in mid-August. The JRS is set to be withdrawn amid fears of a second Covid spike.
The TUC has previously urged the government not to “throw away” the good work of the furlough scheme, as research warned that pulling it could lead to “Great Depression” levels of unemployment.