MP calls on Chancellor to give financial help to the “missing millions”

MP calls on Chancellor to give financial help to the “missing millions”

by Danielle Thompson (July 2020)

MP Bill Esterson says the Chancellor has failed millions of people who have received no financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sefton Central MP said thousands of workers in his constituency had fallen through the gaps of the economic support available.

He said he was disappointed but not surprised that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak had chosen not to offer any help to this group, while at the same time civil servants said what the government had offered represented “questionable” value for money.

Mr Esterson said: “The Chancellor has continued to ignore the plight of the millions of self-employed, freelancers, new starters and owner/managers who have had zero help. He is offering businesses a £1,000 bonus for each furloughed worker who returns to their job, but the government's own civil servants have pointed out that's a poor use of billions of pounds as it creates a perverse incentive. Companies are now encouraged to bring back workers who have been on the job retention scheme and sitting at home for months, while making the staff who have worked through the crisis redundant.

"The value for money of the £9 billion offered to businesses was said by HMRC to be questionable. Putting some of that money directly into the pockets of people who have had no help at all, some of whom now face losing their homes and are relying on foodbanks, would have been a far better way to support the recovery. Those who have still not had help have every right to be very worried and very angry at the lack of support from the chancellor who promised he would do whatever it takes. That promise did not extend to the more than 3 million people who have been left out of the support schemes.

“There are too many gaps in the support available, and the schemes, which give some workers £2,500 a month while others get nothing, are unfair. I have written to the Chancellor several times on behalf of desperate residents but the responses I’ve received have not been good enough.

“Workers who have missed out on support include many in the creative industries who don’t submit self-assessment tax returns because they work on short-term PAYE contracts. This means they were not eligible for furlough or the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS). Also unlikely to have been helped are self employed people with a limited company and whose income comes from dividends not PAYE wages. Others who do some self-employed work and some PAYE work have been refused the SEISS if more than half their income has come from PAYE work in the last three years. Self-employed people who earn just above the £50,000 threshold have been left with no support, whereas someone making on average just less than £50,000 has received £7,500.

“These are the missing millions who have been left suffering the effects of the lockdown without any financial help.

“I have written to the Chancellor raising all the above and more. I supported the Musicians Union’s calls for a £400 per week basic income for the self-employed who were unable to work due to Covid restrictions. I advocated for constituents who started new jobs after the February 28 cut-off, or whose employers refused to furlough them. I have written to the Chancellor several times to highlight the gaps. Too many of my constituents have been left with no support. There are an estimated three million people across the UK who have been excluded from the current support packages. This puts businesses and livelihoods at risk, and risks the economic recovery.

“The Government should address the disparities in support, to ensure that all individuals and businesses currently excluded from Covid-19 grants are given the support they need and deserve.

"Constituents who have been affected by the gaps in the support schemes can email me at bill.esterson.mp@parliament.uk and my staff will do what they can to try to help.

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