The Chancellor has announced new measures in response to COVID-19
The Chancellor has announced new measures in response to COVID-19
  • Luke welcomes new measures but calls for the Chancellor to go further
  • Support to “furlough” rather than lay off workers gains cross-party support
  • No new changes to help the self-employed, raise sick pay or support renters

Luke welcomed the Chancellor’s statement last week to increase support for workers and businesses, but called for more measures to be taken to support the self-employed, as well as renters.

Currently the “Coronavirus Retention Scheme”, which will enable HMRC to administer grants to cover 80% of the salaries of workers not working but “furloughed” and kept on the payroll, will not extend to self-employed individuals, who are being advised to claim Universal Credit. This is insufficient for many self-employed individuals whose business costs will exceed the rate of Universal Credit, even with a £1000 increase. This could push these individuals into debt and harm Plymouth’s economy in the long run, so Luke has called for the government to introduce similar measures for the self-employed.

There is also very little to address the concerns of renters, many of whom are only one pay check away from financial difficulty. Whilst the government has announced that tenants will not be eligible for eviction for at least 3 months, this was not backed up by financial support to allow a rent ‘holiday’. Luke has called for renters to be offered similar conditions to mortgage payers, who have been offered a mortgage “holiday” to support them in these difficult times.

Luke’s main concerns are listed below:

  • So far there has been no increase in the level of Statutory Sick Pay, which remains at £94.25 – one of the lowest rates in Europe
  • Although the Government has said it will cover 80% of qualifying workers’ salaries, there is no guarantee that employers will (or can afford to) pay the remaining 20%
  • The Retention Scheme will be up and running “within weeks”, with the “aim to get it done before the end of April”. But many businesses are facing cash flow problems now – this may come too late for workers at risk of being laid off in the coming days
  • 5 million self-employed individuals across the country will not be covered by the Retention Scheme in its current form
  • There has been no increase to Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, or Carer’s Allowance – which is especially concerning with the expected increase in people taking on care roles
  • A comprehensive package to protect incomes is needed to address rent, debt, and utility bill challenges
  • Many of the Government’s announcements – for example, in relation to mortgage holidays and employers’ contribution to wage bills – rely on goodwill, which doesn’t provide complete security at a time of uncertainty

Luke is hopeful that some of these concerns will be addressed in the coming week, but is urging government to act quickly to prevent risking people’s livelihoods.

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