Concern over self-employed after Chancellor reveals scheme to replace furlough

Rishi Sunak. Picture by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0).

There have been calls for the UK Government to “urgently rectify” its new income support scheme after concerns that it excludes a large number of self-employed workers.

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake said that almost 30% of the workforce in the county were self-employed and called for the Chancellor to change the eligibility criteria under the scheme.

The new emergency fund will be in place for six months, from 1 November. The UK Government said that it would top up wages, with companies asked to pay 55% of the bill.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was extending the self-employed grant on similar terms as the next job support scheme.

But Ben Lake said that 1.6 million self-employed workers in the UK had been excluded from government support, including:

  • the newly self-employed
  • those earning less than 50% income from self-employment
  • and those who had been earning over £50,000 in trading profits before the pandemic.

Ben Lake said that “today’s announcement will be no consolation to the 1.6 million self-employed people who have been left without a penny of Government support since the start of the pandemic”.

“The Chancellor has been aware of the holes in his support schemes for months, yet he has unfortunately yet again refused to address those holes in his statement today.

“Ahead of what will likely be a challenging winter for self-employed workers, especially those in rural areas, I urge the UK Government to urgently rectify this situation so that self-employed workers are not forced into financial ruin.”

 

‘Unavoidable’

Welsh Conservative Leader Paul Davies, however, welcomed the scheme.

“It was difficult to imagine six months ago that we would still be in the throes of a pandemic as winter approaches, and that after a relaxation of rules that localised lockdowns would be affecting  a quarter of the Welsh population,” he said.

“Less difficult to foresee was the effect on the economy, and on businesses. These were always going to take a massive and unavoidable hit.

“The furlough and job retention schemes brought in earlier this year by The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the support for the self-employed have been a lifeline.

“However, these schemes couldn’t go on for ever, and so while I regret that we find ourselves still in this position, I must applaud Mr Sunak for the courageous approach he continues to take.

“As he pointed out, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. There have been three consecutive months of economic growth, millions of people have moved off the furlough scheme and back to work, and consumer spending is returning.

“But he was candid enough to say that not all jobs and businesses can be saved, and while this will be of little comfort to some, we have to live with coronavirus and its effects for months to come.

“These – and I must use the phrase again – unprecedented times have called for unprecedented responses, and I have every confidence in Rishi Sunak to protect livelihoods and the economy.”

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