PUBS and restaurants in Bradford are backing Labour's call to extend the furlough scheme, as the party warns that jobs of more than a million people in the hospitality industry may be at risk.

According to the latest official statistics, 1,036,600 people working in the hospitality industry are still furloughed and almost one in 10 hospitality businesses are planning to make staff redundant in the next three months.

The furlough scheme is approaching a cliff edge in April and Labour has called on the Government to extend it to protect jobs as long as health restrictions remain in place, in addition to calling for six months extensions to both the 100 per cent business rates relief and reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality.

"We've lobbied to continue the furlough scheme and the reduction in VAT," said Ishfaq Farooq, director of MyLahore, which has six curry restaurants including two in Bradford. "If those hadn't been in place it would be a different ballgame for us. They've been a lifeline, especially the VAT reduction.

"Extending them a few months could make the difference in us surviving as a business.

"We managed to managed to keep all of our team due to the furlough scheme, but over 80 per cent of our staff across the branches are on furlough.

"Furlough is very important for our team members. The impact of Covid has affected them massively.

"We've been supporting them all the way," said Mr Farooq. "We've done Zoom calls to check their mental well-being. Mental health has been a major issue, especially during lockdown.

"If they stop furlough, we don't have that kind of money so we'd have to decide what to do," added Mr Farooq.

"Up to now I can't fault the support we've had from the Government," said Keith Wildman, owner of the Record Cafe in Bradford. "The key thing is safety. In order for us to open again, we'd have to have support if restrictions are in place.

"If they do decide to reopen hospitality, then that has to be it. We don't want to go back to square one like last year when were opening and closing all the time. It's not viable to run a business that way.

"If they extend furlough and they can open pubs with no restrictions, then I'd be prepared to wait until August.

"I'm in no rush. I'm happy to reopen fully with no restrictions when it's safe to do so."

Peter Down, chairman of the Bradford branch Campaign for Real Ale, said: "Furlough should be extended until every pub can open properly again.

"CAMRA has had its members lobby their local MPs to speak with the Chancellor with the aim of receiving ongoing financial support.

"This includes the cancellation of business rates for another year, charging a low rate of duty of draft beers and ciders and extending the VAT reduction but having it also apply to alcohol sales, which would help the wet-led pubs.

"They would also need to reopen without the draconian restrictions like curfew and having to serve substantial meals.

"There's also been talk about pubs not being able to serve alcohol when they first reopen. That would be pointless.

"We do accept there will need to be precautionary measures in place, but hospitality managed that before very well with minimal impact.

"We'd like to see hospitality businesses open by Easter but we appreciate it's a decision that needs to be taken at the time.

"The Government have said they will be led by data, not dates. But I fear when they make their announcement on Monday, it will be wishy washy."