Getting a story out – the Liberal Democrat press team in action over furlough extension

The Press Team at Lib Dem HQ don’t just write press releases and send them out, hoping that journalists will publish them. They actively go out and try and get them published. A great success story is a push on the end of furlough, highlighting a letter written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak by Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine asking him to extend furlough for six months to those sectors which are still struggling such as tourism, travel and the creative arts.

Christine says this is important to avoid a “tidal wave” of job losses as the scheme comes to an end.

Christine points out that the cost of six months’ vital support would cost less than last year’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Christine urged the Chancellor to “consider the impact on the lives of those that could find themselves out of a job at the end of the week.” She added it would be “devastating for countless families already facing a winter of spiralling bills and cuts to working benefits.”

Christine said:

The withdrawal of furlough risks having a devastating impact on countless families already facing a winter of soaring energy bills.The government needs to rethink its approach or the country could face a Coronavirus Black Thursday.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding that furlough is extended for the industries that are being hardest hit by the pandemic, to prevent a tidal wave of job losses in the coming weeks.This would support the most vulnerable workers through winter and cost less than what ministers spent on last year’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Thousands of people relying on furlough are worrying about their livelihoods at a time when the impact of the pandemic is far from over. Supporting them and their families is both the right and responsible thing to do.

So where was this covered?

Basically everywhere:

The Independent 

The Standard

Wales online


The Graun

Sky News

Trade Travel Gazette – article by Christine

Trade Travel Gazette – report

City AM 

The Metro 

The Scotsman 

The Mirror 

The Express and Star

The Torygraph

Planet Radio

Even the Fail

Well done to the press team.

And if you want to see Christine’s letter to the Chancellor, it’s here.

Dear Chancellor,

I am writing to ask for an urgent extension of the furlough scheme, and specifically targeted funding which would support the worst hit sectors of the UK economy in a similar, but less expensive way as “Eat out to Help Out” did for hospitality.

The consequences of your proposed removal of this support for individuals and industry across the country would be devastating for countless families already facing a winter of spiralling bills and cuts to working benefits.

Furlough has provided indispensable support in a time of urgent need. But while Coronavirus restrictions have largely ended, the need for it has not. For those who have been most affected by the pandemic, their struggle continues while the support ends. As long as there are jobs, businesses and industries under threat in this country, our economy is under threat too.

This is the reality. The ten industries with the largest proportion of employees on furlough are the ones most likely to see job losses once the scheme ends. Across them, 110,000 people are still on the scheme and they face an elevated risk of losing their job.

Some of these sectors are still affected by public health restrictions. And others depend on activities that – even without Government restrictions – many people will be reluctant to do during winter, due to worries about the Delta variant. Small businesses in these sectors will find it especially difficult to bring back their furloughed staff.

However, these ten sectors combined account for less than 10% of the Government’s monthly expenditure on furlough. According to HMRC, the Government paid out approximately £1.1 billion in furlough claims in July. Yet the cost of supporting workers in the ten most furloughed sectors was just over £100 million. It’s clear that continuing this support would be an affordable step to take.

Extending the furlough scheme in these ten sectors for six months – from October to the end of March – would support the most vulnerable workers through winter, and would cost £600 million in total – or £100 million a month. That’s just over half of what the Government spent on furlough in July alone. And it’s well below the £850 million that last year’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme cost the taxpayer.

Supporting those workers who face the greatest risk of losing their job is anything but unaffordable. It is essential, and far more affordable than the strain on Government finances that mass job losses will cause.

The ten industries with the highest share of jobs on furlough according to HMRC are:

Passenger air transport – 51% of jobs

Travel agency and tour operator activities – 46%

Photographic activities – 35%

Creative; arts and entertainment activities – 28%

Manufacture of wearing apparel – 26%

Organisation of conventions and trade shows – 25%

Manufacture of musical instruments – 24%

Other reservation service and related – 24%

Printing and service activities related to printing – 24%

Retail sale via stalls and markets – 23%

The economic threat of Covid-19 is clear, and this step could be part of the solution. I write to you in the knowledge that like myself and my colleagues, you will have received significant correspondence not only from your constituents, but from business leaders and industry representatives asking for help.

I implore you to consider the impact on the lives of those that could find themselves out of a job at the end of the week. Behind the numbers and statistics so easily thrown about are people with families to support who are not in this situation by choice.

Delivering this support is the right and responsible thing to do for the country.

I sincerely hope you will give this proposal serious consideration, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Christine Jardine MP

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings