The Furlough Scheme: Who Should Pay?

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

By Scott Hasell

The coronavirus pandemic has opened the wounds that have bruised this country for a long time and shown where the priorities of all governments have been financially. People are inherently disenfranchised with the political system, and this has been shown in recent years with Trump, Brexit and many other shocks to the political system. It is time to reset our priorities and ask ourselves the question of what kind of society do we really want to live in.

The furlough scheme, which was unveiled by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, is paying 80% of all wages in order to protect jobs, and this is generally welcomed. I believe this is one of the better things this government has done during the pandemic, and Sunak, has been a light in the dark tunnel. Sadly, we are seeing many, who are within the financial means to avoid doing so, claiming state money from this scheme, many on the Sunday Times Rich List, Richard Branson and Victoria Beckham. Let’s not forget Mr. Branson registers his companies on his own private island to avoid paying tax, so he does not even contribute to our great public services. In fact, he once even sued the NHS that we all go out and clap for on a Thursday night at 8pm but it is most reading this who will suffer the financial brunt of COVID-19.

This scheme roughly costs £14 billion pound a month. By the time it finishes in October, it will have cost £70 billion. Now, that is a lot of taxpayer money, and after dealing with 10 years of debilitating austerity, people are wondering that despite their hard work on the frontline why it is these NHS workers along with many others who will suffer the effect of future cuts? It is the ordinary working man and woman who will foot the bill. This, to put it simply, should not be the case.

In 2008, the financial crash shook the global economy, and we are seeing just as seismic economic shock caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. But how much did we spend bailing out the banks? It was £500 billion pounds. Yet, the government continues to let the banks run freely with little regulation and allowing astronomical bankers bonuses. It is evident that successive governments have been interested only in serving for those at the top of the tree, and let me say, that not much money is falling to the bottom as income inequality continues to grow.

This pandemic has also shown the biggest threats to national security aren’t all combat related. Operation Cygnus in October 2016 showed that this country was woefully unprepared for a pandemic. ‘let’s hope there isn’t a pandemic’ was the general cry from the government as they continued to do nothing to prepare. But we, as taxpayers, continue to pay £200 billion per year in stagnant Trident system, abolition of the programme could pay for Furlough two and a half times over.

HS2, while the intentions behind this project are good, this government is right to think about strengthening their rail networks to get people off the road. However, those in charge of the project claim they have been ‘blindsided by reality’. Again, taxpayer money being spent on this project equates to £106 billion. Cancellation of HS2 would pay for the furlough scheme and more.

Perhaps most agitating statistic I came across was that the government furlough scheme could simply be paid by ending tax dodging. Tax dodged per year in the UK amounts to £70 billion per year which would fully pay for the furlough scheme. The simple message here is don’t let future governments make you pay for this pandemic, don’t let them force cuts to our wonderful public services and don’t let them ruin lives, instead we should challenge the establishment and the views they uphold. Let’s put taxpayers and public services ahead of big banks and big business interests.