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“Difficult times ahead”: Rishi First furlough fraud uncovered

“UK entering one of the most severe recessions we have ever seen, not possible to protect every single job”: Chancellor

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HMRC says man from Solihull detained in connection with £495,000 fraud of CJRS, 8 other persons also arrested

LONDON: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned of ‘difficult times ahead’ despite economy stimulus package. He admits “we are not going to be able to protect every single job” but is criticised for a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Rishi Sunak has told Sky News there will be “difficult times ahead” despite new emergency measures to kickstart the economy after the coronavirus lockdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

The chancellor admitted “we are not going to be able to protect every single job” as businesses reopen following a three-month shutdown. “I am absolutely anxious about the state of the economy,” he told Kay Burley@Breakfast after a major statement on Wednesday.”We are, as I’ve said before, entering into a very significant recession. We know that that is happening.”

He said the forecasts of mass unemployment “weigh very heavily on me”.

But Mr Sunak struck a note of optimism, adding: “We don’t want people to be left without hope or opportunity.”

He also urged Britons to “have the confidence” to return to eating out “because of the measures restaurants have taken” – despite being seen serving food to customers in a Wagamamas without wearing gloves or a mask.

The real toll of COVID-19 on the economy will take some time to be realised, the chancellor added, explaining people will have to gradually readopt behaviours they have “unlearned over the last few months”.

His highly-anticipated speech to the Commons revealed plans to subsidise discounts on meals out, cut stamp duty and pay companies for taking workers off furlough and retaining them into 2021.

Despite focusing on the drive to get people spending again, there was no word in the statement on plans to scrap the waiver put in place during the pandemic meaning NHS staff do not have to pay for parking at their own hospital.

Mr Sunak told Sky News the “commitment hasn’t changed” for it to remain as long as the coronavirus crisis. And he repeated a manifesto pledge to extend free hospital parking for the disabled, frequent outpatient attendees, and parents of sick children who are staying overnight and night-shift workers.

Furlough fraud

Meanwhile, according to a Sky news, a man in the West Midlands has become the first person to be arrested in connection with an alleged fraud of the government’s furlough scheme. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the 57-year-old from Solihull was detained on Wednesday in connection with allegations of a £495,000 fraud of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Computers and other digital devices were seized by officers, while funds held in a bank account relating to the suspect’s business have been frozen. HMRC said the man was also arrested in relation to a suspected multimillion-pound tax fraud and alleged money laundering offences.

A further eight men from across the region have also been detained in raids as part of this linked investigation.

More than 100 HMRC officers were deployed to 11 locations and computers, digital devices, as well as business and personal records were seized.

More than £27.4bn has been claimed through the scheme, supporting 1.1 million employers and 9.4 million furloughed jobs. Richard Las, acting director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said the vast majority of employers will have used the scheme “responsibly”, but added: “We will not hesitate to act on reports of abuse of the scheme.”

“This is taxpayers’ money and any claim that proves to be fraudulent limits our ability to support people and deprives public services of essential funding,” he said.

“As usual, we have built steps in to prevent mistakes and fraud happening in the first place, but anyone who is concerned that their employer might be abusing the scheme should report it to HMRC online.”

The furlough scheme currently pays businesses grants – covering up to 80% of any employee’s salary up to £2,500 a month – if they keep hold of staff during the lockdown.

The government is gradually reducing the support available through the scheme from next month before it ends in October.