The Entrepreneurs’ Forum believes that today’s (September 1) furlough rule changes come at a time when members are ready for the transition.

Chief executive, Jonathan Lamb, said that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has played a hugely important role in supporting North East businesses to overcome the sudden challenges of lockdown – but now members are ready to face the future with confidence.

From today (September 1) those firms employing the 350,700 workers in the North East who remain furloughed must pay a minimum 10 per cent of their salary together with national insurance and pension contributions – as the government reduces its contribution from 80 to 70 per cent.

The scheme, which was introduced on March 20 and guaranteed each furloughed employee 80 per cent of their wages up to a £2,500 monthly limit, ends on 31st  October.

Mr Lamb said that the CJRS has proved invaluable, providing the time and space necessary for its members to adapt and innovate their business models.

“The furlough scheme has provided much-needed stability for our entrepreneur-led businesses during what has been a period of great uncertainty, allowing them to react to the initial situation before moving to the recovery phase.

“During lockdown, members have responded in a variety of ways from ensuring staff were able to work from home where possible, becoming more accessible online, developing new and innovative products or services and reconsidering the way they connect with  customers and other businesses.

“COVID-19 has meant many entrepreneurs of the North East have reassessed their businesses and strategies for long-term success. Many also sought mutual support through the Forum to share knowledge, experiences, and ideas.

“I believe our members have displayed great resilience and ingenuity and are preparing for their enterprises to thrive and grow.

“They’ve emerged from a challenging and difficult period of adjustment with an action plan for success.”

The government’s latest figures for August include CRJS claims up to 31st July. The following figures are by parliamentary constituency: Berwick-upon-Tweed, 10,300; Bishop Auckland, 12,200, Blaydon, 13,100; Blyth Valley, 11,600; City of Durham, 10,400; Darlington, 12,300; Easington; 11,200; Gateshead, 14,100; Hartlepool, 11,200; Hexham, 9,800; Houghton and Sunderland South, 12,500; Jarrow, 12,000; Middlesbrough, 10,800; Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, 11,400, Newcastle Central, 13,200; Newcastle East, 12,800; Newcastle North, 13,000; North Durham, 12,500; North Tyneside, 15,100; North West Durham, 12,900; Redcar, 10,500; Sedgefield, 11,800, South Shields 11,000; Stockton North, 11,700; Stockton South, 13,400; Sunderland Central, 13,000; Tynemouth, 12,800; Wansbeck, 10,000 and Washington and Sunderland West, 13,900. The take-up rate in the North East is 30.4% [i]

[i] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-statistics-august-2020/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-statistics-august-2020#geography–local-authorities-and-parliamentary-constituencies