Labour has warned against ending the furlough scheme prematurely saying up to 1.2 million jobs could be at risk if it goes.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard called on Rishi Sunak to ditch his ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ to withdraw the furlough scheme and focus on a more targeted approach to spending instead.
Pollard said the chancellor’s approach would ‘leave the whole economy struggling’ and be ‘catastrophic’ for rural communities across England.
According to the latest figures by National Institute for Economic and Social Research, ending the furlough scheme in October could lead to 1.2 million people being made unemployed by the end of the year across the UK.
Labour says almost a third of that number are people predicted lose their jobs in country towns in England.
Pollard said: ‘Rural communities and small towns have been hit hard by austerity and are already facing severe challenges, including access to transport, educational opportunities and good quality housing. They cannot afford for hundreds of thousands of jobs to go.’
This comes off the back of fresh Office for National Statistics data showing that half a million people in rural and semi-rural communities across Britain are already unemployed.
Labour’s analysis warned that the area of the country with the highest percentage of jobs furloughed is South Lakeland in Cumbria, where 40% of all workers have been furloughed.
It added that up to 42,000 currently furloughed workers across urban and rural areas in the North East could also find their jobs on the line, prompting the shadow environment minister to call for a rethink over how furlough cash is distributed.
‘The government should be working with businesses and unions to target support where it is needed most, not ploughing ahead with a one-size-fits-all approach that will leave whole sectors of the economy struggling,’ he said.
Labour predicts 320,000 further jobs will be lost in rural England, resulting in a 60% rise in unemployment across these areas.