End of furlough must see Rishi Sunak focus on training – The Yorkshire Post says

RISHI SUNAK probably didn’t expect furlough to cost £70bn when he launched Britain’s pioneering and hastily devised job retention scheme at the outset of the Covid pandemic.

It is 18 months since Rishi Sunak first instigated his furlough job retention scheme.

When the Chancellor questioned the use of the term ‘furlough’, and whether it would have sufficient resonance, Treasury officials assured him that it would with the public. They were right.

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The Government's furlough job retention scheme ends today.

After all, it has supported 11.6 million workers and furlough has been fundamental, ahead of its winding up today, in staving off a far greater economic catastrophe in the wake of the global health pandemic.

And while Mr Sunak will say he has honoured his pledge to support all families through the Covid crisis, 191,000 people in Yorkshire – and 1.5 million nationally – remain on furlough to this day.

It is to be hoped, therefore, that the vast majority are now welcomed back to the fold by their employers – either in their original role or a new post that reflects the economy’s changing dynamics.

And, as for those who may not enjoy the same good fortune, The Yorkshire Post urges Mr Sunak to use this opportunity – and also the fact that his adopted county has a disproportionate percentage of people on furlough – to set up a dynamic national retraining scheme, fully subsidised by the public purse, to help them find work.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Unlike existing programmes that can be too convoluted for their own good, this new initiative needs to be a trailblazer and the precursor to a national skills audit and steps to tackle skills shortages across the economy.

As Mr Sunak stresses at the end of the Treasury’s glitzy video marking the end of furlough as reports persist about a further squeeze on education catch-up spending: “Our plan for jobs will continue. By giving people the skills and opportunities they need.” On this, no expense must be spared – just like furlough.

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