A Coventry and Warwickshire business leader has called for the Government’s furlough scheme to be extended into the summer.

Louise Bennett from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce says the move is needed to give businesses and their staff some breathing space and certainty going forward.

Ms Bennet wants the scheme to be extended until at least the end of July.

The latest estimates show that nearly four million employees were being supported by the furlough scheme at the end of December 2020. 

The scheme, which is due to end in April 2021, has been credited with cutting the number of redundancies that would have been brought about by the coronavirus crisis.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce is joining calls from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to have the scheme extended to give businesses and their staff some breathing space when the economy starts to reopen.

Louise Bennett, the chamber’s chief executive, said: “There is no question that the furlough scheme has been of huge support to businesses and their employees since the beginning of the crisis and, without it, the unemployment figure would be much higher by now.

“When the original date to the end the scheme was announced the Government would not have anticipated that we would be back in lockdown now and, while the vaccine roll-out is continuing at pace, we are still some way off a full opening of the economy.

“Therefore, we’d join colleagues at the BCC in calling on government to extend the scheme until that opening is possible and for it to be in place until the end of July at the least to give businesses and their staff some certainty for the next few months.”

BCC co-executive director Hannah Essex said: “With the furlough scheme providing a lifeline to millions of employees across the economy, further action will be needed in order to avoid a damaging cliff edge for jobs and livelihoods after the scheme ends in just a couple of months.

“The Government must learn lessons from last October, where the delay in extending the scheme at a time of tightening restrictions helped drive redundancies to a record high.

“Therefore, ministers should commit immediately to keeping the furlough scheme in place until a full opening of the economy is possible and at least until the end of July 2021.

“Only with certainty on the future of government support can businesses communities plan ahead and look to restart, rebuild and renew.”

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