CA urges Govt to extend furlough scheme beyond October

The Conveyancing Association (CA) has urged the Government to extend its furlough scheme past October and consider a range of measures that could stimulate the housing market.

The trade body for the conveyancing industry suggested failure to do so could see the legal sector forced into making thousands of job losses due to the significant fall in work currently being experienced.

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, confirmed today that employees will continue to receive 80% of their monthly wages – up to £2,500 per month – until October, but added that the Government would start asking companies to “start sharing” the cost of the scheme from August onwards.
The call from the CA comes following Law Society research that suggested 71% of small law firms – defined as those with four partners or fewer – said they may have to close their doors in the next six months as a result of coronavirus.
The CA suggested that conveyancing firms were being hit especially hard, after the Law Society research also found the crisis had meant a 60% cut in conveyancing work. The research indicated that without a longer-term extension to the current furlough scheme, many conveyancing firms would have to make redundancies in 2020.

CA chair, Paul Smee, commented: “This is a critical moment for the entire legal profession, and especially the conveyancing sector. We fear that even with this welcome extension of furlough terms, assistance may still be needed in the Autumn and we hope that the Chancellor will remain open to that possibility.

“Without a further extension many firms may have to make significant redundancies while others would simply no longer be economically viable. This will create log-jams in the purchase and sale of houses.

“For a Government which will want to see a strong housing market driving a full economic recovery, this would have only negative consequences, and it’s therefore important this sector continues to receive support beyond the end of June.”

The CA has also called on the Government to renew the measures it could put in place in order to help stimulate the UK housing market, although the Association suggested not introducing these in an immediate post-lockdown period for fear of creating a “bubble” of activity – which it suggested the legal profession would not have the capacity to cope with.
Instead, the CA indicated it wants to see structured and long-term measures introduced after a period of time, to help generate confidence in the UK housing market.

“We anticipate that in the immediate aftermath of lockdown, there will be some pent-up demand,” Smee added. “If that activity is to be sustained for the longer-term, the Government should also be looking at ways to deliver higher LTV lending and potentially amendments to stamp duty in order to provide the necessary stimulus for consumers to enter the market.

“As for the sector, we will continue to focus on cutting down the time it takes to complete transactions. We want firms to survive and help the recovery of the UK housing market which will strengthen the economy as a whole.”

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