More than half a million jobs are at risk in Tory “Red Wall” areas of England if Boris Johnson goes ahead with a blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme, new figures have shown.
Conservative MPs representing 107 seats won from Labour in the 2019 election in the north and midlands had just over 650,000 people still fully furloughed by their employer in the middle of August, according to a fresh analysis by Labour.
This means 44 per cent of workers in these constituencies who were moved onto the Government’s Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS) in the early phase of the Covid-19 crisis remain fully furloughed by their employer over four months later.
Around 9.5 million roles have been supported by the furlough scheme since March, but it will be removed entirely at the end of October.
Ahead of a Commons debate on Wednesday, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said that the Tory MPs could “do the right thing” in backing a Labour motion to target extensions of the scheme.
Labour’s motion for today’s Opposition Day Debate calls on the government to introduce targeted income support to businesses and self-employed people in the sectors of the economy hit hardest hit by the virus, and in areas of the country placed under local restrictions due to rising rates of infection.
HuffPost UK understands that the party is set to target Facebook ads at voters in each Red Wall seat if their MP fails to back its motion.
The party’s figures - based on the latest ONS statistics - also show that almost 400,000 people in the same constituencies had made claims under the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) by the end of July.
But chancellor Rishi Sunak is pushing ahead with his blanket withdrawal of both the CJRS and SEISS schemes across the entire economy by the end of October.
Dodds said: “It’s clear the Chancellor is too stubborn to admit he’s got this wrong. The 2019 Tory intake have 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.”
However, the government won backing for its current plans from Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane who told a City AM podcast: “Ever elongating the coronavirus job retention scheme would not allow the necessary process of adjustment to take place.”
His words are similar to those of Bank governor Andrew Bailey, who said last month that Sunak should “move forward” to the next stage of government support rather than extend the furlough scheme.