One million businesses claim £15bn from Government furlough scheme

Simon Neville, PA City Editor

One million UK businesses have claimed £15 billion from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to cover the wages of 8.4 million staff unable to work during lockdown, new official figures show.

The Treasury also revealed on Wednesday that UK banks have funnelled more than £27 billion to companies as part of three state-backed loan schemes since Covid-19 shut down large parts of the economy.

Meanwhile, HMRC said more than £6.8 billion has been claimed via 2.3 million applications from those who are self-employed and unable to work.

All data covers the period from each scheme’s launch to May 24.

Ministers have said they will extend the furlough scheme until the end of October, with employers expected to make a contribution.

Details from Chancellor Rishi Sunak are expected to be published later this week, according to the Times, which carried a detailed report.

The Bounce Back Loan, which was launched last, has proved the most popular. Banks have already approved £18.49 billion in loans to just over 465,000 businesses up and down the country.

The scheme is open to smaller businesses which want to borrow up to 25% of their turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000, interest- and payment-free for the first year.

The Government has promised to back 100% of each Bounce Back Loan, and the banks are required to only make minimum checks on borrowers.

Meanwhile, £8.15 billion has been lent by banks under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to 43,045 businesses.

CBILS loans are backed to 80% by the Government and require banks to do carry out checks on the borrowers.

A similar scheme, the CLBILS, for larger businesses, has lent £820 million to 154 businesses.

In total, nearly 770,000 businesses have applied for Bounce Back Loans, while 84,607 have asked for a CBILS loan, and 502 have sought help under the CLBILS.

Most shops and plenty of other businesses across the UK have been forced to rely on the Government’s support during the crisis.

But ministers will be hoping that, with most shops allowed to reopen from June 15, the economy can start to return to normality and the Government support can be reduced.

Last week, Mr Sunak said he is not counting on the “V-shaped” recovery many had been hoping for when the country was locked down to prevent the spread of the virus.

“It is not obvious that there will be an immediate bounce-back,” the Chancellor told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, adding that the economy is likely to see a huge downturn.

“Obviously the impact will be severe,” he said. “We are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we have never seen.”