THE extension of the government's 'furlough' scheme paying laid-off workers until October has been welcomed by East Lancashire business boss Miranda Barker.

And her approval has been mirrored by senior politicians of both major political parties.

This afternoon Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced to MPs that his 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, due to end on June 30, will remain open until the end of October.

He confirmed that employees will continue to receive 80 per cent of their monthly wages up to £2,500 but added that the government will ask companies to start sharing the cost from August.

He revealed that 7.5 million workers are now covered and said employers currently using the scheme would be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time paying a portion of their wages.

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ms Barker said: "This is really, really good news."

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council's growth boss, said: "It is a welcome, helpful and sensible contribution by the Chancellor."

Cllr Geoff Driver, the Burnley-born Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "This is absolutely the right thing to do."

Mr Sunak said: “Our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected millions of jobs and businesses across the UK during the outbreak – and I’ve been clear that I want to avoid a cliff edge and get people back to work in a measured way.

“This extension and the changes we are making to the scheme will give flexibility to businesses while protecting the livelihoods of the British people and our future economic prospects.”

Ms Barker said: "This is a good move by the Chancellor. He is responding to what business asked for. It will give firms and companies both flexibility and certainty."

Labour's Cllr Riley said: "It is important that the government continues to support businesses and employees until they get back to normal.

"The extension accepts this will take until at least the end of October for some sectors of the economy, particularly the hospitality industry which will be one of the last to return to get back."

Cllr Driver said: "This is welcome news because it is vital that the government supports firms and companies which must survive if Lancashire 's economy is to bounce back after this is over."

Liberal Democrat Cllr Gordon Birtwistle, Burnley's Council's economic development boss, said: "This is good news but I don't know where the money is coming from. It means employees will not fall off a cliff edge and businesses will have time to get back on their feet."