Farry gives qualified welcome to new economic measures, but says gaps remain

A number of gaps remain following the Chancellor’s announcement around the UK Government’s pandemic economy plan, Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said.

Dr Farry was speaking after Rishi Sunak said a Jobs Support Scheme would replace the furlough scheme, meaning workers would get three-quarters of their regular salaries for six months. The North Down MP, who questioned the Chancellor in the House of Commons, gave a guarded welcome to the new measures, while maintaining there are ongoing gaps.

“Alliance has been calling for a flexible extensive to the furlough scheme. We feared a cliff edge with a rapid rise in unemployment, a fear reinforced in recent days with the reality of the health crisis facing us, bringing a deeper impact on our economy.

“It is right the nature of economic support evolves. Today’s announcements are welcome and will be a lifeline to many in Northern Ireland. However, the Prime Minister has talked about ‘putting his arms around everyone’ and the need for creativity and innovation. There are three gaps in the new approach.

“First, there is a much bigger financial commitment required from employers. This was always on the cards. But the structure of payments may work better in some sectors and others, with contrasting incentives and disincentives to retain staff.

“Second, there are some sectors still essentially shut down due to COVID-19. However, there are sustainable businesses here needing longer bridges to the future. These will be in sectors such as travel and tourism, aerospace, and the arts and creative industries. Further support is required here.

“Lastly, well over a million people continue to be excluded from the economic support measures due to the arbitrary criteria set by the Treasury. They have struggled on universal credit or savings over the past six months. They have not helped with today’s new schemes. We will continue to push for creative solutions for them.”