THE Chancellor is being called on to do more to help workers and small businesses that have been ‘excluded from government support during the coronavirus pandemic.’
Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has asked the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to increase the funds available to councils to hand out via the local authority discretionary grant fund.
Sefton Council confirmed to Mr Esterson that the £2.2m fund they are distributing to businesses that have been ineligible for previous schemes has been oversubscribed, which means many businesses will still miss out.
In an email from the council Mr Esterson was told: “The Discretionary Grant has a total budget of £2.2m and on July 30, more than £2.6m worth of applications had been received. However, we expected not all would progress and Sefton Council reopened its application portal for a further period from 3-26 August. At present there are no plans to open the scheme up to businesses working from home.
“Sefton has also followed all the mandatory elements of the guidance set by Government in terms of making the scheme available to businesses with fixed property costs including those in shared premises. Also, in accordance with Government guidance we also funding for Bed and Breakfast establishments who pay Council tax and who therefore missed out on Small Business Grant and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure grant schemes.
“Sefton Council has also used its discretion to allocate funding to the Visitor Economy Sector which has been severely affected by the pandemic and is at most risk. Our Economic Recovery research has already indicated that the borough will lose up to £300m and put potentially 3,000 jobs at risk. With the limited amount of grant available it was agreed to prioritise those businesses that have high fixed commercial property overheads, as opposed to those working from home.”
Mr Esterson wrote to the Chancellor after hearing from constituents who run their businesses from home. Where the businesses are also limited companies, their owners have been unable to attract any grant or income support from the current schemes. Many people who have only recently become self-employed or who earned just over the government threshold also did not qualify for support. Meanwhile for employees, there was no upper earnings limit on who was and was not eligible, leaving a cliff edge for people who run their own businesses.
Mr Esterson said: “These are just some of the excluded that I have been campaigning for. It is thought that there are around 3 million workers in the UK who have had no support at all from the government during the pandemic. These include businesses that are run from home. Sefton Council have said they are not helping these business, whereas other councils have handed out grants to businesses operating from home. I have written to the Chancellor to ask that he increase the funds he has made available to Sefton Council so that they can widen the beneficiaries of the scheme and help the business and self-employed workers who have yet to receive any support.”
Sefton Council have been approached for a comment.