MPs urge Sunak to expand support amid third lockdown

MPs urge Sunak to expand support amid third lockdown
Credit: Matt Dunham/AP/Bloomberg

The Treasury select committee has urged the chancellor to consider those who have fallen through the gaps of support as the government announced further grants as part of the UK’s third lockdown.

This morning (January 5) Rishi Sunak announced £4.6bn of new lockdown grants in a bid to support businesses and protect jobs, with firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to receive a one-off grant of up to £9,000.

A further £600m is being made available to local authorities to support other businesses not eligible for the grants, and the furlough scheme and business rate holidays had already been extended until April.

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But MP Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury committee, has said the committee would be “scrutinising” the support “very carefully”.

He said: “The additional support announced by the Chancellor will be welcomed by many businesses struggling for survival.

“The Chancellor must not forget those who have fallen through the gaps around previous support packages.”

Mr Sunak and the wider government have come under constant scrutiny throughout the coronavirus crisis to expand support to cover those who fall outside of the government’s current measures.

The government’s Self-Employed Income Support scheme does not cover newly self-employed workers while limited company directors, paid in dividends, have not been covered by the schemes so far.

Those newly in employment were also not covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme while freelancers or those on short-term contracts struggled to receive grants and loans to see them through the crisis.

In June the Treasury committee published a report that called on the government to act over those gaps in support during lockdown.

Mr Stride said: “Overall, [the Chancellor] has acted at impressive scale and pace. However, the committee has identified well over a million people who – through no fault of their own – have lost livelihoods while being locked down and locked out of the main support programmes.

“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps.”

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