MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – Britain’s Finance Minister admitted on Monday that ending a pandemic leave program that kept millions of employees in would result in job losses as the government prepares to announce a new support for workers.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to announce a £ 500million ($ 680million, € 580million) recycling scheme for older workers coming out of leave and young Britons, the Conservative Party said in power.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has spent nearly £ 70 billion to pay the bulk of the salaries of staff trapped at home, helping to keep the official unemployment rate relatively low.
But Sunak ended the holiday scheme on Thursday and is also removing a weekly benefit increase for lower-paid workers.
He insists it is time to shift to longer-term support, against objections from opposition parties and activists that the changes will push many people further into poverty.
“I said from the start of this crisis that it was not possible for me or any chancellor to save every person’s job,” Sunak told Sky News.
“We have a lower unemployment rate here in the UK than in America, Canada, France, Spain, Italy, among others, and there are a record number of vacancies,” he said. he adds.
The first phase of his plan had protected 11 million jobs through the leave program, he said, and Britain “is now enjoying one of the strongest and fastest recoveries of any major. world economies “.
“But the job is not done yet and I want to make sure our economy is fit for the future, and that means providing the support and skills people need to work and get ahead in life,” said he declared in a speech. at the annual curatorial conference.
However, protesters at the Manchester conference in north-west England accused the Tories of abandoning the poor. “The children are hungry. How can it be in this century? We are here because we have to do something to register our disgust, “retired teacher Lorraine Thompson told AFP on Sunday.
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Official data from last week showed the UK economy rebounded more strongly than expected in the second quarter.
But separate indicators point to slowing growth, as the country grapples with a supply chain bottleneck and global inflationary pressures that have spiked fuel prices.
The government is grappling with a wave of panic buying at gas stations caused by a shortage of tanker drivers, and has mobilized the military to help.
Companies attribute the shortage of drivers to the government’s hard-line approach to Brexit, which has halted a flow of workers from Eastern Europe, but ministers say the pandemic is to blame.
In a bullish conference message to loyal Tories, Johnson pledged to move forward with his post-Covid stimulus package to “build back better” in areas ranging from infrastructure to climate change.
Asked by the BBC on Sunday, he refused to return Britain to its pre-Brexit economy, which he said was too dependent on cheap foreign labor.
“What we cannot do in all these sectors is simply to go back to the tired, failed old model and reach the marked lever of uncontrolled immigration, with people on low wages,” he said. .
“So yes, there will be a period of adjustment.” Johnson and Sunak are also under pressure from the conservative right to increase the UK tax burden, in part to deal with a crisis in elderly care.
The Prime Minister said there was “no opponent more fierce and more zealous than me for unnecessary tax increases, but we have had to deal with a pandemic of a magnitude this country has never had. never seen in our lifetime and long before ”.
“If I can avoid it, I don’t want to raise taxes again, of course not, and neither does Rishi Sunak,” Johnson told the BBC.
However, many analysts expect Sunak to do just that after presenting a budget review in late October, as the Treasury struggles to balance the books after its huge pandemic-related spending.
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