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UK furlough extension to cost much less than spent so far - finance ministry

LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - The cost of British finance minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to extend his COVID furlough programme until March should be “quite a bit lower” than the roughly 40 billion pounds ($53 billion) spent so far, a Treasury official told lawmakers on Thursday.

Asked about a possible further 40 billion-pound cost, Beth Russell, director-general for tax and welfare at the Treasury, said the number of claims were likely to be lower than earlier in 2020.

“We wouldn’t expect it to be as high as that, given the restrictions in the spring, and the restrictions that we are now expecting for the next few months, we would expect it to be quite a bit lower than that,” she told parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. ($1 = 0.7586 pounds) (Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Toby Chopra)