Nick Smith MP is calling for decisive action to be taken to protect jobs by extending and improving the Coronavirus furlough scheme while public health restrictions remain in place.

New analysis by the Labour Party estimates that, in Blaenau Gwent, 3,580 people were still furloughed by their employer in late January, seven months after Rishi Sunak launched his ‘Plan for Jobs’.

The Chancellor initially triggered a one-size-fits-all wind down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) last July. After several last-minute changes over the autumn and winter, the scheme is now set to expire at the end of April.

With 4.6 million people still on furlough nationally, Labour is calling for the Chancellor not to repeat the mistakes of last year by winding down the scheme while public health restrictions are in place.

Instead, Labour is calling for Mr Sunak to immediately announce an extension to the furlough scheme, to remove uncertainty for local businesses and workers. They are also calling for urgent reform to make furlough smarter, with training opportunities and tough conditions on employers to prevent abuse.

Labour is also demanding immediate action to recover jobs by overhauling the failing Kickstart scheme, something Mr Smith has questioned the Government on previously.

Last September Mr Smith spoke about the scheme in Parliament, emphasising that if £2bn of public spending is going to go into the scheme then it must prove to be value for money and provide a practical path in to work for young people.

The latest figures show that there are currently 590,000 people aged 16-24 out of work and just 2,000 are now on Kickstart placements.

Labour’s figures also show that 1800 people in Blaenau Gwent had made claims under the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) by the end of July.

The Chancellor has left millions of self-employed people in the dark about future support.

Labour is calling on the Chancellor to set the fourth grant of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) at 80% of pre-crisis profits – and to do it now, not at the Budget. This scheme should also be opened up to the 200,000 people who only have a 2019/20 tax return.

The Chancellor is also being asked to urgently fix the holes in support schemes that have left millions of others excluded from support.

Nick Smith MP said: “It’s now seven months on, and the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs is not working. We have record redundancies, soaring numbers of people out of work and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

“We need urgent action to secure, recover and create jobs. This must include a smarter furlough scheme and an overhaul of the failing Kickstart youth programme.

“People can’t afford for the Chancellor to dither and delay these decisions until the Budget. They need action today.”

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