Britain’s biggest housebuilder Barratt vows to hand back £27m in taxpayer cash used to furlough thousands of staff
Britain’s biggest housebuilder has vowed to hand back £27m in taxpayer cash used to furlough thousands of its staff.
Barratt sidelined around 5,700 employees, or about 85 per cent of its workforce, at the height of the lockdown under the Government’s coronavirus jobs retention scheme.
But yesterday the group said virtually all of those had returned to work and its finances were robust enough to allow it to repay the money, confirming the amount handed back would be £27m.
Payback: Barratt sidelined around 5,700 employees at the height of the lockdown under the Government’s coronavirus jobs retention scheme
The company also revealed a big drop in the number of homes it built during the pandemic but said it was optimistic about demand returning.
Campaigners will welcome the decision to return the furlough cash. The Taxpayers Alliance has urged businesses to ‘do the right thing’, warning that the public will ‘remember those businesses that pulled out all the stops to help – and those that didn’t’. Rivals including Taylor Wimpey and Redrow have already pledged to hand back the money, while Persimmon opted not to use the scheme.
In a trading update yesterday, Barratt said: ‘We are grateful for the support, which allowed us to safeguard the jobs of our employees during the height of the pandemic. However, our financial position has remained resilient. Therefore, we will now repay all furlough funds received.’ Others to hand back furlough money include Ikea, Bunzl, Games Workshop and The Spectator magazine.
Barratt also said its home completions had fallen by one third as the coronavirus crisis halted construction activity. In the year to June 30, it said just 12,604 homes were finished compared to 17,856 the year previously.
Although builders were not banned from working when lockdown measures were announced on March 23, many paused site activity for much of April and May as they decided how to implement social-distancing rules. The housing market was also effectively shut down and only reopened in mid-May.
Barratt said it was starting the new financial year with ‘cautious optimism’ but added that the economy and the housing market remained uncertain.