Rishi Sunak will announce a £500m extension to his “plan for jobs” on Monday as the government tries to avoid a surge in unemployment after the furlough scheme came to an end.
The chancellor will use his speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester to promise extra support in finding a job for the over-50s and workers coming off furlough. Sunak is expected to claim he is “doubling down” on his 2020 promise to do “whatever it takes” to support people through the crisis.
However, the government is pressing ahead with its decision to remove the £20-a-week uplift to universal credit despite warnings from charities and campaigners that it will increase poverty.
Measures included in the new package will include prioritising those coming off furlough for one-to-one support from jobcentres and extending until 31 January the £3,000 incentive for employers to take on apprentices.
The furlough scheme, which supported a cumulative 11.6m jobs during the crisis, came to an end on 30 September. Unions and business groups urged the chancellor not to scrap it, and the jobs package appears to be an attempt to cushion the impact.
A £500m hardship scheme announced last week to be administered by local councils to ease the impact of the cost-of-living crisis was branded a “sticking plaster” by charities and the Labour party.
With a tough spending review coming up on 27 October, Sunak is expected to highlight the government’s plans for investing in infrastructure and skills.
“We are going to make this country not just a scientific superpower, not just the best place in the world to do business, I believe we’re going to make the UK the most exciting place on the planet,” he will say.
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The chancellor used his conference speech last year, when the event was held virtually, to say the Tories have a “sacred duty” to repair the public finances.
The shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said: “The government’s struggling plan for jobs has failed to hit its original targets; it is not creating the number of jobs needed and has failed to address the supply chain crisis Britain is experiencing.”
Meanwhile the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, suggested the UK could pursue a more interventionist foreign policy, during her first conference speech on Sunday. She cited a desire to sign more deals akin to the Aukus defence pact with Australia and the US, referencing Japan as an ally where the UK was seeking more military access and operational support.
Truss said the UK should be an active member of the “network of liberty” pursuing global democratic values. “The democratic world order faces a stark choice. Either we retreat and retrench in the face of malign actors or we club together and advance the cause of freedom,” she said.
She said the west must “win this battle for economic influence” in developing nations from a “position of strength”.
In a nod to Conservative backbenchers who have rebelled against the government in order to promote a hardline approach towards China, Truss said trade with the superpower was important but added that the UK would be “tough on those who don’t share our values and don’t play by the rules”.
She said the UK would “reach out to more countries who haven’t historically been aligned to Britain and encourage a freer, more prosperous world”.