THE chancellor has “bought precious time” for the beleaguered hospitality trade with his latest support for businesses, according to Hampshire Chamber.

Southampton-born Rishi Sunak offered a new job support scheme in an effort to avoid wholesale redundancies when the current furlough scheme ends at the end of next month.

The new scheme see workers receiving 77 per cent of their pay if they are put on shorter hours rather than made laid off. Government and employers will share the cost.

VAT on hospitality and tourism will remain at five per cent until March 31 next year, while businesses will be given up to 10 years to repay bounce back loans.

Ross McNally, chief executive of Hampshire Chamber, said: “We welcome the chancellor’s plan to protect jobs as the furlough scheme comes to an end.

“In particular, the new jobs support scheme will mean that many people can be paid for shorter hours, still doing worthwhile and viable jobs, rather than face immediate redundancy.

“Businesses can now make decisions in the light of a clear structure of support to get them through to next summer.

“They will still have to make some tough choices but the steps he has announced on job support, tax deferrals and the extension of government-backed loans will provide much needed relief.

“He is right to focus on helping businesses with cashflow.

“We also welcome his targeted support on VAT for our culture, tourism and leisure sectors by maintaining the lower five per cent rate until March rather than ending it in January as had been the plan. This will buy precious time.”

But the chancellor’s proposals were criticised by trades unions, who said the furlough scheme should have been extended.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Any support for jobs and key industries during this unprecedented global pandemic is to be welcomed.

“However, the chancellor’s measures are akin to using a plaster to cover a gaping wound.

“Our members in the commercial sector, aviation and culture are already being threatened with hundreds of redundancies, as employers seek to capitalise on the economic fallout from Covid-19.

“The Tories’ ideological opposition to increased state intervention is hurting the economy and costing people their livelihoods right now.”