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Coronavirus furlough scheme could be cut back as costs soar

Downing Street did not deny reports that the Chancellor will 'taper' scheme, slashing by a quarter the proportion of wages funded

Taxpayer support for millions of furloughed workers could be cut amid fears over the scheme2020欧洲杯网站's rising cost.

No 10 and the Treasury did not deny reports yesterday that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, was looking at "tapering" the scheme by cutting the proportion of wages funded by the Treasury from 80 per cent to 60 per cent.

The job retention scheme now supports the wages of 6.3 million employees, almost a quarter of Britain's private-sector workforce, at a cost of £8 billion. Each worker is paid up to £2,500 a month by the taxpayer.

The scale of the scheme, combined with millions more claiming benefits2020欧洲杯网站, means that more than 27 million people - 53 per cent of the adult population - are now funded by the taxpayer. The Evening Standard reported last night that Mr Sunak was looking at lowering the proportion of wages the Government pays to employers to 60 per cent, with employers being encouraged to make up the difference. Another approach would be to allow some furloughed staff to work, but with a smaller taxpayer subsidy.

The Government did not deny the reports. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Chancellor has said he is working on the most effective way to wind down the scheme. Ultimately we do need to fire up our economy and get people back to work."

2020欧洲杯网站A Treasury source said the report was "speculation", adding: "The Chancellor is working through options this week and no decisions have been taken as yet, so everything is on the table."

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, suggested employers would face sanctions if they did not keep staff safe after the lockdown. Asked on Sky News if there would be sanctions, he said: "There are already rules in place that we have brought in to deal with the crisis - yes."

Pressed on how the Government could ensure staff did not lose their jobs if they refused to return, he added: "We can protect people by having the rules in place for social distancing at work and people doing the very best they can to follow those rules."

Lord Lamont, who served as Chancellor to John Major between 1990-93, said that the public are unaware of the “horrible” economic damage2020欧洲杯网站 that is “coming around the corner”, warning that the Government’s furlough scheme has lulled workers into a “false sense of security.” Lord Lamont on Tuesday said he feared that some sectors of the economy “will disappear” after the lockdown is lifted.