Sunak dashes hope for furlough or grants

The chancellor has dashed travel industry hopes of an extension to furlough or sector-specific support.

The travel trade has been lobbying politicians for furlough support – the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – to continue beyond its scheduled shutdown on September 30, as well as targeted financial grants in recognition of the continuing disruption to the sector.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak made his comments in a letter to Henry Smith MP – whose Crawley constituency includes Gatwick, and who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for the future of aviation.

The group has lobbied for furlough to run until March 2022, and for sector-specific grants for aviation, travel and tourism.

Sunak wrote: “It would be challenging to target the CJRS to specific sectors in a fair and deliverable way and it may not be the case that this is the most effective or sensible way to provide support for those sectors most affected by Covid-19.”

On the issue of grants, he added: “Grant support is a devolved policy area and the UK government has decided in England it is preferable to provide local authorities with funding at a scale, and with the flexibility they need to best support their local economy, rather than create several dedicated grant funds, such as one for the travel sector, to be administered from Whitehall.”

“Further funding has been made available via the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) to support those businesses that have had their trade adversely affected by the local and national restrictions.

“The ARG is a discretionary fund and is also administered by local authorities to support businesses in the way they see fit.

“Local authorities in England have been allocated £2 billion in additional funding to provide support that best suits their area.”

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted: “Very disappointing reply from the Chancellor to our cross-party appeal for furlough to be extended in the travel industry, given the Government’s continued, unreasonable, uniquely restrictive & costly international travel rules.”

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