Nearly one in eight workers still on furlough as firms call for Budget help

Primark and other high street stores, including many independent businesses, will close from Thursday Picture: SARAH LUCY...

Nearly one in eight works in Suffolk and north was on furlough at the end of December - Credit: Archant

Nearly one in eight workers in Suffolk and north Essex remained on furlough at the end of December, it has emerged.

Data released by HM Revenue and Customs has revealed that 60,800 out of 509,700 eligible workers in the region were still on the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of last year.

The news comes as business leaders urge the government and chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide clarity on the route out of lockdown and call for support in next month's Budget, with the scheme set to end next month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil a support package for businesses affected by coronavirus lat

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to deliver a Budget next month - Credit: PA

The HMRC data, which is broken down into parliamentary constituencies and runs from May to December, revealed that furlough numbers peaked in June last year throughout Suffolk and north Essex. 

Fewer claims were submitted throughout the rest of the summer and early autumn as sectors began to reopen, but the reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions late last year saw more workers put on furlough.

In Suffolk, there were 38,300 claims under the scheme in December - an increase from 26,900 in August.

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In the north Essex constituencies of Braintree, Clacton, Colchester and Harwich and North Essex, claims were submitted for 22,500 jobs.

Paul Simon, head of policy and communications at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "Since the start of the third national lockdown, Suffolk Chamber has been lobbying the government to be much more strategic and joined up in helping businesses recover from the pandemic during 2021 and into next year rather than relying on its current bits and pieces approach.

Paul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Paul Simon

Paul Simon, head of policy and communications at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce - Credit: Archant

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"The fact that more than one in ten of Suffolk’s workforce is still on the furlough scheme, which is due to end in April, makes our demands even more urgent.

"We are calling on the chancellor to ensure that the March 3 Budget represents a New Deal for Business, including how and when firms pay tax so as to boost and not penalise long-term risk-taking and growth.

"As the year progresses, we want to see a longer-term pivot in that support from assisting sectors that are in particular distress to a programme that also boosts the growth of emerging sectors in which Suffolk has a particular strength, such as renewable energy, the land-based economy and broadband and digital connectivity."

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