Rishi Sunak hinted that tax hikes could be delayed to save jobs today, as it turned out that companies have already made plans to lay off 500,000 people during the coronavirus crisis.
After using his speech at the Tory conference to warn that hiking would be required, the Chancellor insisted that his "focus for the moment" was on shoring up the economy and that the books would only be "over time" would be balanced.
The comments came in a round of interviews after new figures showed companies told the government in August that they wanted to cut 58,000 jobs.
Although the numbers passed to the BBC under FOI rules are lower than in June and July, they have stood at nearly 500,000 since the pandemic began.
Mr. Sunak, in his "virtual" speech to Conservative members yesterday, warned that "tough decisions" will be required on tax hikes and spending cuts.
After using his speech at the Tory conference to warn that hiking would be required, Rishi Sunak told Sky News today that his "focus right now" is on propping up the economy and the books are only " over time "be balanced.
Public sector borrowing has increased sharply this year compared to last year. Tax revenues have fallen, and £ 70 billion has been spent tackling the coronavirus crisis, according to IFS
He said that "in the medium term" the government must "get a grip on our borrowing and debt".
"This conservative government will always balance the books," he said.
There were strong indications that the Chancellor intended to raise taxes on a budget this fall, but that package has been delayed as coronavirus cases rose again.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, Mr. Sunak said that balancing the books must be achieved "over time" and that his immediate priority is employment.
“My main focus right now is to protect as many jobs as possible. What is currently happening in our economy is significant and grave. Lots of people are losing their jobs, ”he said.
“In the short term, the main focus of my intention is to do whatever I can to encourage as much employment as possible.
“Over time, we need sustainable public finances. This is important to me, it is important to the government, but in the short term the best way to have sustainable public finances in the long term is to protect as much employment as possible. & # 39;
The BBC received numbers of planned layoffs from the bankruptcy service that are required to be reported by companies planning to layoffs.
Sectors hardest hit by the crisis include retail and hospitality as a number of commercial giants have announced major layoff plans including Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and WH Smith.
More recently, fashion giant H&M announced its plan to close 250 stores worldwide last week as Burger King prepares to lay off 1,600 employees in the UK.
The world's second largest clothing retailer said around a quarter of its 5,000 stores will be able to renegotiate or terminate contracts over the next year, which may cause some stores to close.
H&M is not yet providing details of the number of UK job losses or shop closures that are expected to occur as a result of the plan.
It follows yesterday's announcement by TSB that it will cut around 900 jobs as part of its plans to close 164 of its bank branches.
The Edinburgh-based bank expects most layoffs to be voluntary, but does not rule out the possibility that employees will be made redundant.
A government spokesman told the BBC: "Supporting jobs is an absolute priority. That is why we have set up our Job Plan to protect, create and support jobs across the UK.
"We're helping our employees get back to work with a £ 1,000 bonus by creating new roles for young people and doubling the number of frontline work trainers with our £ 2 billion Kickstart program."
The government is struggling to revive the economy after the lockdown plunged it into recession
Mr Sunak has rejected calls from Labor to extend the massive vacation program that ends at the end of the month.
Instead, he announced last month that it would be replaced by the Job Support Scheme.
That means the government subsidizes workers so that they can get 77 percent of their usual wages for just a third of the regular hours worked.
Under the new system, workers' wages will receive a maximum subsidy of 22 percent from the Treasury, depending on how many hours they work.
But companies have to pick up the extra 55 percent, compared to 20 percent on vacation.
It has raised fears that many companies are simply laying off their employees instead of taking them on.
Employers are required to notify the government if they plan to fire 20 or more employees in a single “facility” using an HR1 notice of layoff form. Often, however, they eliminate fewer positions than the number they originally notified.