ALMOST 9,000 people in Inverclyde were furloughed from their jobs at the height of the coronavirus pandemic fresh figures have shown.

Statistics released by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show that from March until the end of July, 8,700 roles from an eligible 34,000 across the district were temporarily removed.

The stats come from a study of the UK Government's coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS), which was introduced to support employers and employees throughout the pandemic.

Up until June 30 initially, the scheme covered 80 per cent of an employee's salary, capped at £2,500 per month.

A separate self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) in Inverclyde paid out £3.9m.

Of the 1,900 self-employed people in Inverclyde who are eligible for support, 1,500 made claims.

The claims averaged £2,600 per award.

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe has praised the schemes but warned that financial problems may still lie ahead.

Councillor McCabe said: "The UK Government’s furlough scheme has been crucial in providing thousands of local people with financial support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Around 25 per cent of the working population and almost 80 per cent of self-employed people in Inverclyde have managed to avoid financial disaster thanks to the scheme.

"The danger is that when the scheme ends in October, local firms and self-employed people will be left facing a financial chasm.

"The pandemic is not over.

"Many businesses are still closed and could still face the prospect of further local lockdowns."

Mr McCabe would like to see the government extend the scheme.

He said: "The chancellor needs to take this ongoing pressure into account."

Inverclyde Council is set to launch its own targeted furlough scheme, which will pay 50 per cent of salaries when the CJRS closes down at the end of next month.

The local furlough initiative is part of a £1.5m relief package covering jobs, training, welfare, food and support for the third sector.

Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan fears the moment when the UK Government ends its furlough scheme.

He said: "Everyone has welcomed and praised the furlough scheme, and it has been vital in helping communities.

"The HMRC stats for Inverclyde highlight exactly why the UK Government’s furlough scheme must continue.

"Ending furlough, combined with a no deal Brexit at the end of the year will be a double whammy that will hit our community and population hard.

"They will be hammer blows for Inverclyde.

"If the UK Government ends furlough and other financial assistance schemes, more lives will be devastated.

"It is incumbent upon them to act appropriately."

Local MP Ronnie Cowan also urged the UK Government to maintain the support schemes.

He said: "I am encouraged that businesses in Inverclyde are accessing the support that has been made available.

"However, the latest figures from HMRC highlight the importance of not prematurely ending these vital avenues of support.

"The UK Government is rushing to end its support for businesses, risking a catastrophic wave of job losses later in the year.

"This will inevitably push many families and businesses in Inverclyde into hardship, which will cost the country much more in the long run."