21 March 2020 00:50
John McDonnell has described the "shifted direction" from the Chancellor – who announced new economic measures to address the coronavirus crisis today – as "not far enough or fast enough". Rishi Sunak joined the daily Covid-19 press conference this afternoon, where he unveiled plans including a coronavirus job retention scheme and a suspension of VAT payments for businesses. The move to protect jobs will mean all employers are eligible for a grant to cover 80% of their staffers' salaries, up to £2,500 a month, with employers topping up pay if they choose to do so. The scheme will cover wages backdated to March 1st and there is no limit on the total funding available for the initiative, which the Chancellor vowed to put into action by the end of April. Sunak also revealed that the Universal Credit standard allowance would be raised by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, and the Working Tax Credit would be increased by the same amount.
But the key benefit for the self-employed is new access to Universal Credit at the same rate as statutory sick pay, which is currently £94.25 a week and there are no plans for that to change. Responding to the further economic announcements, McDonnell said: "The Chancellor has shifted direction but unfortunately not far enough or fast enough. "The government must give people the economic security to stay at home by lifting the level of statutory sick pay, but it appears that the government hasn't done that today. "Sick pay is being left at a level that the Health Secretary said he could not live on, yet this is what the self-employed are being asked to get by on. "The Chancellor's wage protection plan sets out no obligation for employers to keep staff on, and no commitment to full wages being paid, with the cap on incomes meaning that many people will take a significant pay cut.
"The Chancellor said he would do whatever it takes, but he can and should go further – and we will keep working constructively with government to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis." IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, has warned that the fresh coronavirus measures leave the self-employed "trailing far behind employees". Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: "The government has done nowhere near enough to support the self-employed. "In fact, instead of supporting freelancers to help them keep their businesses going, it is pushing the self-employed into the benefits system. "Worse, in the benefits system, the amount of money available will simply not be enough to cover many freelancers' costs." Labour's economic plan for the coronavirus, released on Thursday, recommended that sick pay should be increased and urged all benefit sanctions to be suspended. IPSE: Self-employed left "trailing far behind employees" in Coronavirus measures IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), has warned that the government's Coronavirus response measures leave the self-employed "trailing far behind employees". IPSE has said that although there is unprecedented support for employees, the government has done "nowhere near enough" for the self-employed. It has urged the government to provide better support by creating a Temporary Income Protection Fund. This should provide temporary, targeted grants to replace a proportion of the income lost by freelancers. Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) said: "Despite unprecedented measures to support employees, the government has still left the self-employed trailing far behind. "The government has done nowhere near enough to support the self-employed. In fact, instead of supporting freelancers to help them keep their businesses going, it is pushing the self-employed into the benefits system. Worse, in the benefits system, the amount of money available will simply not be enough to cover many freelancers' costs. "In this drastic and grave situation, we urge the Prime Minister and Chancellor to match the steps they have taken for employees and create a Temporary Income Protection Fund for the self-employed. Rishi Sunak has dumped the big bazooka and gone for a thermonuclear weapon in his Herculean efforts to protect jobs, livelihoods and businesses. It includes new grants and loans, deferments of tax and increased welfare payments to provide regular financial payments for those with jobs, the millions who are self-employed and those who are about to be completely without work. Those who are unemployed will receive a boost to their income via Universal Credit while tax bills due by the self-employed are to be delayed. The country's six million self-employed and freelancers are to be paid Statutory Sick Pay via the Universal Credit System. However, this was the one part of the package which was met with bitter disappointment by the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed. The trade body criticised the emergency scheme as "trailing far behind employees" and doing nowhere near enough for the self-employed. Instead, of putting the self-employed into the UC process, it suggests that the government creates a Temporary Income Protection Fund, providing temporary grants to replace a slice of income now already being lost by freelances. Not providing more help for the self-employed – arguably those who take the most risk in the economy but have the smallest voice – is a bad mistake for a Conservative government. Our ability to come through this won't just be down to what government or businesses do, but by the individual acts of kindness that we show each other."Compassion, an attitude that some Britons sometimes find difficult to associate with the Tories, was exactly what Sunak, and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, have shown. They and their Cabinet colleagues have cast aside differences of creed and ideology and worked with the unions and business leaders to come up with these measures that will hopefully save millions of jobs, protect the vulnerable unemployed, and managed to provide a lifeline to the country's small businesses. Together with those working in SMEs, the self-employed are the people that will provide the growth and future jobs for when the nation is finally rid of, and healed of this virus.