Furlough Scheme Seen as “Worth the Expense” Even if it Results in Future Tax Rises

July 8, 2020
R&WS Research Team
Coronavirus | Coronavirus Lockdown Measures | Coronavirus Restrictions | Economic Policy | Health | Rishi Sunak | The Economy | UK Government

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As the Government phases in a more flexible version of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the UK public believes that the scheme started by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, in March has been largely successful. In a poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on the 2nd and 3rd of July, 61% of respondents agreed that the furlough scheme had been a success, versus 9% of respondents who disagreed.

The furlough scheme draws support from across the political spectrum with respondents who voted for the Conservatives in the 2017 election most in favour. 73% of Conservative voters agreed that the furlough scheme had been a success compared to 59% of Labour voters.

Moreover, when the public was asked how they feel about the government significantly raising taxes, reducing spending and borrowing to pay back for the furlough plan, 62% of respondents from across the political spectrum agreed that this unprecedented amount of government expenditure would be worth it. [1]

Support was similar across parties with 65% of respondents who voted Labour in 2017 and 63% of respondents who voted Conservative agreeing that the furlough scheme was worth a future increase in taxes and/or reduction in spending.

Respondents are split on their opinions about how long the furlough scheme should last. The scheme is currently intended to remain available in some form until the end of October, yet just 23% of respondents agreed this was the right time frame. A strong plurality (48%) of respondents would prefer the scheme ceased sometime sooner.

15% of respondents wanted to end the scheme right now, just as the UK comes out of its nationwide lockdown. Another 15% of respondents said they wanted the scheme to finish at the end of July. Smaller minorities said they would prefer the scheme to be ended in August (11%) or September (7%). Just 13% of respondents wanted to extend the furlough scheme beyond October to the end of the year.

Although shops, pubs, restaurants and offices have re-opened across most of England, the city of Leicester has become the first area to experience a localised lockdown, which shuttered schools and non-essential businesses. 61% of respondents would support a renewal of the furlough scheme for areas with a local lockdown, such as Leicester, compared to just 6% of respondents who would oppose it.

The public is also in favour of an extension of financial support for industries more acutely affected by coronavirus concerns. 65% of respondents agreed with an extension of the furlough scheme beyond October for certain industries that are likely to remain badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing requirements.

When respondents were asked which particular industries should be supported via an extension of the furlough scheme beyond October, theatres and concert halls were the category that attracted the most support at 48%. In the weekend after our poll was conducted, a £1.57bn emergency support package for the arts sector was announced.

Restaurants, hotels and bed & breakfasts comprise another industry where a significant proportion of the public would support a continuance of the furlough scheme. 44% of respondents indicated they would support extended furlough for workers in this industry. 41% of respondents also selected to support bars and pubs. A significantly smaller minority (30%) stated their support for extended furlough to workers within the aviation industry.

The UK public, regardless of political allegiance, believes that Chancellor Sunak’s furlough scheme has been a success and that even if increased tax or reduced government spending and borrowing is required in the future, it will have been worth it. As the UK sees more and more businesses re-open, there is a desire to close the furlough scheme before the current October end date. Nevertheless, if lockdown restrictions are renewed in certain regions, or continue to have a significant impact on specific industries, the public supports extending furlough to the areas and businesses concerned.

[1] Note: While the statement includes the word ‘significantly,’ this question could have been more explicit as to the level of spending the furlough scheme has entailed so far and will entail by its current expiration date.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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