Chancellor's measures for self-employed amid coronavirus pandemic receive mixed response

26 March 2020, 21:40

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Chancellor Rishi Sunak's new measures for self-employed workers amid the coronavirus pandemic have received a mixed response from politicians and workers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that self-employed people will receive up to 80 per cent of their income from the government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, workers will receive a taxable grant of up to 80 per cent of their average monthly profits - similar to the scheme for furloughed workers - over the past three years up to £2,500 per month.

However, it is not set to start until June which has left some people anxious about whether they can afford to survive until then.

It is also believed that 1.7 million people will not to be eligible because they earn less than half of their income from self-employment. Meanwhile, a further 200,000 people will not be eligible because they have profits exceeding a £50,000 threshold.

Despite many welcoming the measures, the chancellor has come under fire for some of the schemes apparent shortcomings.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell warned Mr Sunak people needed the money as soon as possible.

"He's saying the money won't get to the banks and the pockets of the self-employed until June and some of them need the money now," Mr McDonnell said.

"They need it in a matter of weeks, so I'm hoping the Chancellor might be able to help a bit more on that."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford echoed the shadow chancellor, saying the money should be made available sooner than June.

He wrote on Twitter: "Many self-employed people rely on a regular flow of income, including those from low-income households, and they need support now.

"The SNP will continue to press for more and quicker support to be delivered, particularly for those already in difficulty."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan praised the package but also raised concerns about the potential waiting period.

"Today's announcement by the Chancellor is welcome and will help millions of people," Mr Khan tweeted.

"However, June is some time away and concerns remain that many self-employed and freelancers could be excluded in London, where the cost of living is higher than elsewhere.

"Whether applying for Universal Credit or accessing this new support, having to wait weeks or even months risks leaving people unable to pay bills and put food on the table.

"I'll continue to urge Govt to provide the right levels of financial help as soon as practically possible."

His Manchester counterpart, Mayor Andy Burnham was also happy Mr Sunak had listened: "Once again, the Chancellor has shown his ability to listen. This move is welcome & will help millions. But initial feedback says June will be a stretch.

"Case for an up-front blanket £1k payment in April to tide people over? Just an idea. Could be deducted from the final figure."

Several other opposition MPs expressed dismay that self-employed workers would have to wait until June to claim.

Liberal Democrat MP and leadership candidate Layla Moran posted: "80% grant for the self-employed is welcome. But waiting until June does not give self-employed parity with those in employment."

She added that it was a "huge missed opportunity" to implement a universal basic income.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted called the delay until June "a slap in the face" that could bankrupt people. He also asked why there is an eligibility cap for the self-employed but not the employed, saying, "this is not what I call fair."

Elsewhere, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre "welcomed" the financial support for people in its industry, saying the announcement was "much needed" but asked for a rethink on some of the details.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians were "delighted" with the move, while the Creative Industries Federation called it "a massive victory for the creative industries".