Estimated Cost of Government Spending on Covid Rises to £372 Billion

The Government is expected to spend £372 billion in its response to Covid, according to the National Audit Office (NAO), with the estimated cost having risen by £100 billion since January. Almost half of this total will be given to furlough and to other business support schemes. The MailOnline has the story.

The NAO Covid cost tracker now captures a full year of predicted costs since the pandemic began, with £172 billion already spent.

It includes £26 billion worth of guaranteed loans which are expected to be written off.

Support for businesses such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme had the highest estimated cost, at £151 billion.

This was followed by help for the health and social care sector at £97 billion.

Programmes such as the Self Employment Support Scheme, under help for individuals, came to £55 billion.

And there was an additional £65 billion estimated to be spent on support for other public services and emergency responses.

Chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier said it showed how public accountability “has never been more important”.

“The NAO’s cost-tracker tool is vital as the primary public data source on Covid spending across Government,” she said.

“With such huge sums going out the door, and Government guaranteeing loans worth over £90 billion, Government faces a long road to recovery ahead.”

The figures were released as question marks remained over whether the public would be freed from working-from-home guidance in June.

Hopes are high that under Step Four of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown staff will be encouraged to return to city centers to provide a much-needed boost for local service businesses.

But the new Indian variant that is prevalent in some Northern towns is giving scientists pause over whether the lockdown lifting should be slowed down.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to a Sky News report, more people were furloughed at the height of the pandemic than were working from home (WFH), despite the number of people WFH more than doubling in 2020.

It is clear that so-called hybrid working is now on the up – mixing WFH and time in the office – allowing staff greater flexibility on how they manage their time, in many cases, and further savings from commuting every day.

But Sarah Loates, Founder of Loates HR Consultancy, warned that the trend was not always in the best interests of employees.

She said…: “While finance directors are rubbing their hands with glee at the cost savings from dispensing with expensive serviced offices, hybrid working comes at a price, both social and economic.”

“Socially, hybrid working poses the inadvertent creation of ‘donut’ city centres, where businesses migrate to the fringes of cities as vast swathes of the workforce work from home.

“SMEs [small/medium-sized enterprises] reliant on commuter city centre footfall may therefore emerge as economic casualties of hybrid working.

“At a business level, the hidden costs of hybrid working are yet to reveal themselves, such as IT support, reputational damage linked to data breaches and employee relations.

“During lockdown we saw a spike in employees raising grievances, as managers wrestled with managing remotely.

“With hybrid working set to become the enfant terrible of employee engagement, how companies balance the business case of this fundamental shift in working remains to be seen.”

Also worth reading in full.

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