WITH MILLIONS of new Universal Credit claimants expected when the Tory ‘job retention’, or ‘furlough’, scheme ends over the next three months, the government is doubling the number of front-line staff at job centres.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to pledge £800 million to recruit 13,500 extra job centre staff in a major speech on Wednesday, with 4,500 new ones in position by October and more following before the end of the year.
UK companies announced thousands of job cuts last week, with many thousands more expected in the weeks ahead.
Job centres are being re-organised to enable them to cope with hundreds of ‘screened’ face-to-face meetings with new claimants every day.
The government’s furlough scheme, which currently pays 80% of the wages of more than nine million workers, is due to be pared back from August and to finish at the end of October.
This is likely to result in thousands of businesses laying off hundreds of thousands of employees.
Also ahead of his projected Wednesday major speech, Chancellor Sunak has been sent a letter by more than 120 pub, restaurant and hotel chiefs, urging him to introduce measures exclusively for their sector to stop them going bust, including a cut in the rate of VAT and deferral of tax liabilities including PAYE.
Meanwhile, the head of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), Robert Chote, warned Chancellor Sunak in a Sunday Telegraph article yesterday that the UK economy is facing ‘nasty surprises’ due to the enormity of its ‘debt pile’.
Chote wrote: ‘We made the point back at the time of the last fiscal risks report that the public finances are more vulnerable to nasty surprises on interest rates and inflation than they were because the stock of debt is larger, and also because of quantitative easing, which has meant that a larger proportion of it has essentially been refinanced at Bank Rate.’
Sunak is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Meanwhile, the wholesale privatisation of social care is set to be in place within a year, the head of the NHS indicated yesterday.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, yesterday, NHS England Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sir Simon Stevens, said there is a need to ‘decisively answer’ the question of how social care can be provided long-term.
Stevens said: ‘If any good is to come from this, we must use this as a moment to resolve once and for all to actually properly resource and reform the way in which social care works in this country.
‘The reality is that after at least two decades of talking about it, we do not have a fair and properly resourced adult social care system with a proper set of workforce supports.
‘I would hope by the time we are sitting down this time next year on the 73rd birthday of the NHS that we have actually, as a country, been able to decisively answer the question of how are we going to fund and provide high-quality social care.’
The 2019 Tory Party election manifesto pledged to ‘find a cross-party solution to reform the social care sector’.
Before his appointment by former Tory Health Secretary Hunt, Stevens was from 2004 to 2014 chief executive of United Healthcare, a $30 billion private Medicare empire in the USA.