More than 400 people have been placed on furlough by Hampshire County Council since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures revealed by the Advertiser show the authority has put 410 workers on the Government funded scheme which pays them 80 per cent of their normal wage. This equates to 3.17 per cent of the 12,937 total staff members employed by the council.

This comes despite the county's chief executive John Coughlan stating in an email back in March - which was seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service - that all of its workers were "critical workers".

The email read: “The Government has provided more details of who is considered a critical worker.

"In accordance with these guidelines the County Council has determined that all roles undertaken by its staff are essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response, or the delivery of essential public services and therefore, are classified as ‘critical workers'."

After being questioned on this statement by the Advertiser in reference to the furloughing of its workers, leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Keith Mans said: “The article you refer to was published on March 24, at the very start of restrictions and before the full impact and implications of national measures were felt.

"Since then, much has changed during this fast-moving pandemic, and in response to this evolving situation, in Hampshire, most staff employed by the County Council have been needed to continue to undertake their normal role, and in many cases, to take considerable additional action as the crisis has developed.

"This has included coping with the challenges faced by care homes, caring for vulnerable children, supporting the local economy and re-positioning public-facing services.

“Where levels of service in some areas have reduced slightly during this outbreak, it has been possible to furlough a number of staff across the organisation, but this is mainly in areas that are normally supported by external income. Council workers are critical, but where services that cannot be provided have stopped, and staff qualify to be furloughed, it’s right that we do that."

Earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the furlough scheme would be extended up until the end of October.

The scheme – which pays 80 per cent of a worker’s salary up to a £2,500 monthly cap – will remain unchanged until the end of July and then continue with employers expected to start footing some of the multi-billion pound bill.

When asked how this would impact the county council employees currently on furlough, Mr Mans said: "As we enter the recovery phase of the crisis, we will need to consider further, the action needed to respond to increased demand for social care support, and efforts to restore the wellbeing of Hampshire’s communities and the economy.

“The County Council continues to perform to the highest possible standards despite these unprecedented challenges and especially to help lead the fight against the virus – and we continue to assess with vigilance, the ongoing financial impact of this evolving pandemic – and do our utmost to protect Hampshire’s public services and the staff who deliver them.”

The council added that it does not currently hold the information which shows how much money has been saved by placing the 410 people on furlough.