More than a third of employees furloughed in some UK towns

More than a third of employees in some towns in Britain have been furloughed due to coronavirus, according to figures that also reveal the government’s job retention scheme has now cost almost £20bn.

Crawley in Sussex, which sits next to Gatwick airport, had 33.7% of employees furloughed last month while in contrast Cambridge had just under half that proportion at 17.4%.

Burnley, Slough, Sunderland and Birmingham were also in the top five towns and cities with the largest percentage of employees sent home after their employers found there was no work for them to do during the coronavirus lockdown.

Cambridge headed a list of university towns that boasted the least number of furloughed staff, including Oxford, Exeter and Cardiff.

According to analysis by the thinktank Centre for Cities of the first regional breakdown of furlough data published by the government, the scheme is estimated to cost £19.6bn.

London was the worst affected region, with Tottenham the capital’s worst affected constituency.

The Treasury launched the coronavirus jobs retention scheme (CJRS) in March, allowing companies to send workers home, with the Treasury paying 80% of their usual wage, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

The government published figures up to 31 May say the scheme has supported more than 6.4 million staff in England, in addition to more than 628,000 jobs in Scotland, 316,500 in Wales and nearly 212,000 furloughed staff in Northern Ireland.

The self-employment income support scheme (SEISS), which paid up to £2,500 to self employed workers unable to earn a living, boosted the incomes of 146,000 people in Scotland at a cost of £425m. In Wales, 102,000 claims were made for £273m, while 69,000 self employed workers in Northern Ireland and 2m in England made claims for £198m and nearly £6bn respectively.

The chancellor Rishi Sunak said that across the whole of the UK, 70% of those eligible for support through the self-employment scheme made a claim, with the average value of claims amounting to £2,900 from a maximum £7,500 to cover three months.