EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: The Chancellor is refusing to implement simple solutions to ensure jobs are protected

Approximately three million people have been excluded from the Government’s coronavirus Financial Support Packages.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 12:00 am
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is accused of being spiteful. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Chancellor said that he would do ‘whatever it takes to protect people and businesses from the effects of the pandemic’ yet, new starters who began work or were due to after the cut-off date of 19 th March, self-employed with annual profits of £50 000 or over, directors of limited companies, freelancers and short term contractors, self-employed with less than half of their income from self-employment, newly self-employed, self-employed on maternity leave, workers employed by an individual and many more have been left with zero support.

Despite the Government being made aware of the severe hardship being faced by this excluded group, the Chancellor is refusing to implement simple solutions to ensure that jobs and businesses are protected.

I, along with over 200 MPs, joined the cross party All Party Parliamentary Group Excluded APPG to press for the hundreds of desperate tax-paying South Shields constituents who have been in touch with some heart-breaking stories of the impact on their mental health, their mounting debts and their worries for the future.

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We are heading for a recession. The Government should be doing all it can to prevent mass unemployment. That is why our group, along with the Treasury Select Committee, is calling on the Chancellor to introduce some parity, tweak some of the existing schemes and the eligibility criteria or introduce a new scheme. Some of our suggestions are to allow the newly self-employed to receive grants based on their 2019/2020 tax return, give PAYE freelancers a grant according to their total income, change the furlough cut off for small companies to 19 th April to allow for those who file their PAYE on an annual basis.

The Chancellor’s response that people should simply sign up for Universal Credit shows an ignorance of how it works and how little he has listened to this group of 3 million, as many of them, for several reasons , are ineligible for Universal Credit. It came as a further blow to this group when, in July, his mini budget,a ‘Plan for Jobs’ ,made no effort at all to redress this unfairness.

Worse still, Local Authorities who have been tasked with administering the Government’s business support funds have millions in this fund unspent. Our Local Authority and my team are aware of those who urgently need help, but Government guidance won’t allow it to be handed out. In another blow, the Government have said if it isn’t all spent by the end of August then it needs to go back to the Treasury. So, the money is there but the Chancellor’s intransigence is stopping people from accessing it. This is just plain spitefulness.

The Chancellor’s words a few months ago that ‘People need to know we will do all we can to give everyone the opportunity of good and secure work’ and that ‘no one will be left without hope’ ring hollow for many of us and acutely so for the three million excluded.