UK’s Rishi Sunak vows cash for COVID unemployment schemes
Chancellor hands out fresh support package ahead of UK spending review.
LONDON — U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged billions of pounds in funding to help people without jobs find work in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Ahead of a spending review on Wednesday, at which Sunak will set out departmental budgets for the coming year, the chancellor unveiled a £2.9 billion scheme to help 1 million people with job searches, as well as £1.4 billion to boost the capacity of the U.K’s network of job centers.
“My number one priority is to protect jobs and livelihoods across the U.K.,” Sunak said in a statement. “This spending review will ensure hundreds of thousands of jobs are supported and protected in the acute phase of this crisis and beyond with a multi-billion package of investment to ensure that no one is left without hope or opportunity.”
The government has propped up millions of jobs during the crisis through work and business support schemes. But the opposition Labour Party has argued the help was not targeted enough, meaning billions of pounds were wasted.
Unemployment stood at 4.8 percent for July to September, according to the Office for National Statistics, up 0.7 percent on the previous three months.
Responding to the Treasury announcement Tuesday, Matthew Fell of the CBI business lobby group said political attention in the U.K. was “rightly turning to how to create new jobs.”
“The scarring effects of long-term unemployment are all too real, so the sooner more people can get back into work the better,” he added.
Wednesday’s spending review — slimmed down from original plans — will also include a boost in defense funding and is expected to come alongside gloomy forecasts about the state of the U.K. economy.